Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom’s aggressive plans to speed up green energy projects across the state were dealt a severe blow in the state’s legislature.
On Thursday, the California Senate Budget Committee voted 3-0 to delay consideration of a sweeping climate package the governor proposed a week prior that he argued is crucial to achieving his climate goals, according to local news outlet CalMatters. The legislation would accelerate the construction of energy projects, expedite court reviews of environmental challenges, and streamline permitting.
“Although today we are rejecting the governor’s trailer bill proposals based on process, seven days is insufficient to vet the hundreds of pages of policy nuance in these proposals; we look forward to working with the administration on all of these critical issues,” said chair of the committee, Democrat State Senator Josh Becker, after the vote, according to CalMatters.
Becker, along with other committee members, signaled they would support efforts to ensure swift approval of crucial green energy projects and cut red tape by amending the California Environmental Quality Act as Gov. Newsom proposed. Despite that, legislative procedures would have necessitated that lawmakers fast-track the package to be passed by early June.
During a Thursday press conference, Newsom reiterated the necessity for permitting reform in the state.
“I was in Patterson, California, a couple of days ago — 13th year they’re 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,” said Newsom to reporters at a clean energy event. “We laid out permitting, 11 specific bills last week to reduce permitting time by three years, documents by hundreds of thousands.”
“If we don’t build, democracy is questioned, our capacity to deliver. Why do you think so many of these authoritarians are asserting themselves and their might and their muscle — not just around the world, but in some other parts of this country? It’s because they say we can’t get things done anymore.”
According to the governor’s office, his proposal would expedite critical projects that “meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate and social goals.” The package would specifically seek to advance hundreds of wind, battery storage, and solar projects, clean transportation projects; semiconductor factories; and rail construction projects.
Gov. Newsom set lofty climate goals last year; wants power grid completely reliant on “clean energy” by 2045
Last year, Governor Newsom set goals to cut oil usage by 94%, slash greenhouse gas emissions by 85%, and deploy more wind and solar capacity over the next two decades. He is also pushing California to develop a power grid completely reliant on “clean electricity” by 2045.
However, Newsom’s recent permitting reform proposal has received increased pushback from environmental organizations, arguing it would lessen ecosystem and wildlife protections across California. Seventy-five eco groups, led by Defenders of Wildlife, blasted Newsom for attempting to rush the package through the legislature in a letter on Monday.
“Defenders of Wildlife is gravely concerned that the Newsom administration is rushing major policy changes through a closed-door process that effectively sidelines meaningful public engagement and transparency,” said California program director at Defenders of Wildlife, Pamela Flick, in a statement.
“While we strongly support investing in climate resilience, it’s imperative that such investments be made in an equitable, transparent manner that does not undermine fundamental environmental laws or proper public process.”