The aggressive plans of the California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s push to accelerate green energy projects across the state has been stymied by Democrats in the state legislature.
The California Senate Budget Committee voted 3-0 on Thursday to delay consideration of a sweeping climate package proposed by Newsom a week before what he said was essential to achieving his lofty climate goals, reported the local CalMatters outlet. The law would speed up the construction of energy projects, streamline permitting and expedite court review of environmental challenges.
“Although we are now rejecting the governor’s trailer bill proposals based on the process, because seven days is not enough to review the hundreds of pages of policy changes in these proposals, we look forward to working with the administration on all these critical issues,” said Democratic state Sen. Josh Becker, the committee chairman, after the vote, according to CalMatters.
Becker and other committee members have signaled they will support efforts to cut red tape and ensure speedy approval of major green energy projects by amending the California Environmental Quality Act as of what Newsom proposed. However, legislative procedures require lawmakers to fast-track the package to be passed in early June.
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In a press conference Thursday, Newsom reiterated the need for state authorization reform.
“I was in Patterson, California, a few days ago – 13th year they’ve been working on a solar battery project – 13 years. I mean, it’s absurd. I’m for process but not that nonsense. It’s been abused,” he told the journalist at a clean energy event. “We laid out the authorization, 11 specific bills last week to reduce the authorization time by three years, documents of hundreds of thousands.”
“If we don’t build, democracy is called into question, our capacity to deliver. Why do you think so many of these authorities are asserting themselves and their strength and their muscle – not only around the world, but in some other parts of this country? Because they said, we can’t do things anymore.”
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According to Newsom’s office, his proposal would accelerate key projects that “meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate and social goals.” The package specifically seeks to promote hundreds of solar, wind and battery storage projects; railway construction projects; clean transportation projects; and semiconductor factories.
Last year, Newsom set goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, reducing oil use by 94%, and deploying greater solar and wind capacity over the next two decades. And he’s pushing the state to build a power grid that relies entirely on “clean electricity” by 2045.
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However, his recent permitting reform proposal has received significant pushback from environmental organizations that argue it will reduce protections for wildlife and ecosystems throughout California. Led by Defenders of Wildlife, 75 eco groups criticized Newsom for trying to push the package through the legislature, in a letter Monday.
“Defenders of Wildlife is deeply concerned that the Newsom administration is rushing through major policy changes through a closed-door process that effectively sidelines meaningful public engagement and transparency,” said Pamela Flick, the California program director at Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement.
“While we strongly support investment in climate resilience, it is imperative that such investments be made in a fair, transparent manner that does not undermine fundamental environmental laws or due public process.”