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California has new laws on climate, labor and more

 October 13, 2023 at 1:58 PM PDT

S1: This week on Kpbs roundtable. Californians will be seeing a lot of new laws soon. Hundreds of bills made it to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk. We're looking at some that were signed and others that were vetoed.

S2: I think a lot of times the biggest surprises are things where you expect the governor to be in support and then , you know , the reason that he pulls out for vetoing it is unexpected.

S1: Among the wave of new laws are those impacting California's environment and energy , including one that requires businesses to say how much carbon they admit into the atmosphere.

S3: You had a lot of big companies who clearly don't want to be in a position of admitting how much emissions their operations lead to.

S1: Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. Welcome to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. This year's legislative session saw the most bills introduced in more than a decade. So Californians will likely be seeing a lot more new laws. The clock is ticking , though. California Governor Gavin Newsom has until Saturday to sign or veto bills that were passed by the legislature. Joining us to discuss what has and has not made it into law are Jeremy White. He covers California politics and policy for Politico. And Alexis Joseph is here. He writes about all things Sacramento politics for Cal Matters. I want to welcome you both here to roundtable. Let's start out with some initial thoughts here. Really , we have just like hours left for some bills to be signed into law. What's caught your attention so far ? And Alexis will start with you. And then Jeremy just jump in after.

S2: Some of the things that have caught my mind are are more the vetoes than the signatures. I think a lot of times the biggest surprises are things where you expect the governor to be in support and then , you know , the reason that he pulls out for vetoing it is unexpected. You know , one that immediately jumps to mind is this cast discrimination bill ? It would have been , you know , a first in the country. That's something the governor loves to do is be out ahead of the curve on , you know , rights for , for marginalized groups. But in this case , he called the bill unnecessary and , and vetoed it. And , you know , that caught me a bit by surprise. And it's not clear , you know , totally , totally why he , you know , didn't want to take that step and sign it into law. So that would be one that jumps to mind for me.

S4: I would say this was an enormously successful session for organized labor in the state capital unions , always one of the most powerful political forces in Sacramento. This year was really a banner year when they legislators sent Governor Newsom a variety of bills to do things like regulate self driving trucks , offer unemployment insurance to striking workers , various other stuff. The governor has already vetoed a few of those measures. He's he signed some others , including a deal giving fast food workers raised to $20 an hour. He helped negotiate a compromise between labor and the industry on that one. So it's certainly been some give and take , but I think it's proven that the governor is not always quite as willing to advance all of Labor's priorities as the Democratic legislature can be , and often citing cost , which I think has been a pretty regular theme with this governor.

S1: And let's get into labor there a little bit more. Alexi , you had a piece calling it the Hot Labor Summer and how lawmakers sort of embrace that. And as Jeremy mentioned , you know , the $20 an hour fast food worker bill that starts in mid 2024. But the governor also vetoed some labor bills. And one that comes to mind is one that would have allowed striking workers to , like , file for unemployment benefits.

S2: The difference this year is by signing bills that advance the interests of low income workers , but did not necessarily sign those bills that they had pushed forward to try and advance the interests of unions and organizing power. You mentioned the unemployment insurance , one. That was a huge priority for labor. That was something they've tried to get to the governor's desk before and have been unsuccessful. And so , you know , they made this big push. They got it there and they were unsuccessful again. And it was a bitter defeat because this was something they felt like would really give unions more leverage and , and more room during the strike so that they aren't forced back to the table to accept a bad deal that they don't like. There were some others kind of along those lines , one that would have allowed more solidarity for workers not to have to cross picket lines. That was something else that the governor vetoed , expressing concerns about liability for businesses , you know , things in that realm. And so they're sort of sifting through their disappointment about not , you know , getting those additional protections and rights for for , you know , unionized workers , while also celebrating that there were some of these big wins for , you know , especially low wage workers , such as expanding the number of guaranteed sick days that all Californians will have access to.

S1: And , Jeremy , I know you said that labor was something that sort of stood out to you this session.

S4: I think the governor really sort of picked his shots on this one. And I think in ways labor was sort of testing how much they could get accomplished. Like Alexi said , that unemployment insurance bill , something that had been tried before by the now head of the California Labor Federation , couldn't quite make it. I think the massive amounts of strikes and labor unrest we saw this summer really helped to spur it to the governor's desk. But despite , I think , the perception in some quarters that Gavin Newsom is a sort of unfettered liberal , he often is sort of a counterweight to some of the more liberal stuff coming out of the legislature. I get the feeling we're going to get into some more of that. And so in ways this was kind of a familiar role for him , I think.

S1: And so there was a lot on the table this year. We're just going to start going through some of these. And Jeremy , we know that there was efforts to streamline building more housing , especially affordable housing. And you actually called three recent bill signings. Yes , in my backyard housing trifecta. Can you break down that trifecta for us ? What changes are coming there ? Absolutely.

S4: I think the bigger context here is that Gavin Newsom ran on building a lot more homes , and you see a lot of legislators who align themselves with the movement , really in positions of power. And so I think this is an ideology that's really in the ascendant right now. So some of the big accomplishments this year , there was a bill , SB 423 , which extends a previous streamlining law that essentially lets cities and counties that are behind their state housing goals , lets housing development move faster. Their bill doing something similar for construction on land owned by religious organizations like churches , and a third bill that limits local governments ability to deny housing by invoking the California Environmental Quality Act. So you can get a little wonky in some of the details here. But I think , broadly speaking , what we have seen is there's a lot of political momentum behind legislation that removes some of these barriers to approving housing. And in the specific cases of these bills , they overcame resistance from players like organized labor , environmentalists , local governments that in the past really was a death knell for these types of bills. And so I think the fact that they all advance to the governor's office , not without some drama along the way , is a demonstration of sort of where the wind is blowing on that stuff.

S1: And , Alexi , we know that the governor isn't signing everything right. I mean , he vetoed a bill that would have capped the price of insulin. And we know that that's something that's life saving for many with diabetes , insulin. Do we know why the governor said no. There.

S2: Yeah , it's a curious one. The reason that he cited in his veto is that his administration has already working on this issue. He is in the process of working with manufacturers to try and develop and a generic California backed insulin. That would be a lower cost alternative to these pharmaceutical companies , but that's still going to take several more years , at the very least. And in the meantime , there's dozens of other states and the federal government that have capped the price of insulin. And , you know , it's sort of curious. The governor went his own way on this one. You know , it's hard to say exactly why he didn't want to sort of bridge that gap between his own efforts and providing people that relief. Now , in the meantime.

S1: You know , for me , it's kind of always interesting to see when there's bills that the Senate passes , that the Assembly passes sometimes , like overwhelmingly in a majority , they make it to the governor's desk for approval , and then they get rejected.

S4: The governor excuse me , the legislature can override gubernatorial vetoes with a two thirds vote. Democrats do have two thirds margins in both houses of the legislature. It might roughly decade covering California politics. I can't remember it ever happening , Alexi. I don't know if you can. I think there's a basic dynamic here , which is that ultimately lawmakers want the governor to sign their bills. They want him to enact their budget requests. Sometimes they want him to come campaign for them. And so I think the downsides of antagonizing the governor by trying to sort of stick it to him in that way probably outweigh the upsides of getting what you want into law. And I doubt legislators would admit this , but I think there are probably some of these bills that they vote yes for to mollify some allies , knowing that ultimately the governor won't sign it and they get to kind of have it both ways.

S2: You also have to consider that everybody's getting bills vetoed. And , you know , they may be very important to that specific legislator , but they're not necessarily important to two thirds of the legislature. Whose turn would it be to get to override a veto ? And , you know , how would they make that decision ? Right ? I mean , there's a lot of complicated factors. It's a really hard thing to do. And so it just generally does not happen.

S1: And I'm curious and either one of you can take this one if you want. But does , you know , we have California Governor Gavin Newsom , who some have talked about maybe him running for president.

S4: I would point in particular to his vetoing a bill decriminalizing certain psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms. He similarly vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed some local governments to set up what are called safe injection sites , where people could could use harder drugs under government supervision. Not the same by any means , different classes of narcotics. But I think on both of them there was the message that the governor gave , which was sort of we need to study this more. And there was the way it was interpreted by a lot of people , which is that this would look bad in a presidential campaign , something the governor is not going to admit to. But I think it's impossible not to look at some of these actions and think about how he may be interpreting the the long game here.

S2: And , you know , it's it's become the frame through which everyone you talk to is analyzing what he's doing. You know , he may not admit it , but it's sort of the first instinct that everybody seems to have whenever he signs or vetoes a particularly contentious issue , at least when we're having conversations among ourselves. It's what I hear constantly from advocates and lawmakers. You know. Oh , well , that probably would have been a hard thing to defend in a campaign or , you know , things like that. So it's a mindset that has just sort of permeated Sacramento.

S1: And continuing to kind of bounce around here. Jeremy , we also know that California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and maybe even the most. And it sounds like more will be added next year , including like an additional tax on the sale of guns and ammo.

S4: This was one , actually , that I would not necessarily have expected to become law. Democrats had tried a few times to do this. Taxes require a two thirds vote , which is a higher margin , and even when it did pass , it landed on Gavin Newsom's desk. And this is a governor who is a very vocal supporter of gun control , but is also not so keen on raising taxes. And so it kind of put those two things in tension. But he signed it. So we're now going to see that 11% tax on firearm and ammunition sales. I am certain it will be challenged in court. Alexi maybe can correct me and it already has. I'm not positive.

S2: They're they're planning to file something closer to when it takes effect. So yes almost certainly will be challenged in court. Yeah.

S4: Yeah. So again California's done a lot on on restricting firearms. And this was one of the ones that was sort of hanging out there. And this was the year they got it done.

S1: And Alexa , we've also heard a lot about mental health policy like mental health policy reform. It's something that the governor has talked a lot about , held a lot of news conferences. It sounds like among some things , there's going to be some changes to Conservatorships.

S2: It's sort of his way of responding to the homelessness crisis that's increasingly visible and increasingly frustrating Californians , because he can't just go out there and build more housing. Right ? So he's thinking about what can he do to try and get many of , you know , these most visibly homeless and most , you know , sort of frustratingly homeless people off the streets. One of those things is to take people who are either too sick or perhaps on drugs and just unable to , you know , take care of themselves and force them to get help. And this is the second year in a row now where he signed a major bill that overhauls the rules and basically loosens up the civil liberties protections that have been in place for decades , to try and make it a little bit easier to force those people to get treatment. And he's also pushing , you know , we'll see more in the election next year , but he's pushing some ballot initiatives that would also redirect some funding to build more mental health treatment beds and things like that , to back up this effort to force more people into treatment and make sure that those resources are there , available for those people. So what you're seeing here is , you know , the governor coming in and kind of taking a little bit more ownership of this issue and trying to flip the dynamics of what's considered acceptable and , and take a little bit of a tougher hand with people who have basically been allowed to just sort of live out there on the street because they don't want to get help.

S1: And as we wrap up here , you know , there's hundreds of bills that get signed into law and we can't cover them all here. But is there anything else that you guys think listeners should be aware of , or just anything else that we haven't covered here yet ? And , Jeremy , we could start with you.

S4: Well , on the topic of big labor priorities and what the governor is going to do , the big one still hanging out there , a deal to give health care workers raise to $25 an hour minimum wage. This was something that labor had been pushing for for quite a while. They struck a sort of grand bargain with health care groups like hospitals , dialysis clinics , unlike that fast food deal we spoke about before. The governor was not involved in brokering this one. So it's not something the governor has blessed. And I think that's the biggie , that folks are really curious to see where the governor lands , and he'll have to make a decision pretty soon.

S1: And Alexi , you have the final word here.

S2: Well , you know , there's just , I think , a ton of fascinating dolls that made their way through this year. And there's a couple that I think the governor signed that , you know , are sort of nation leading as well , that could be subject to future litigation that are worth keeping their eye on as well. One is a law that's going to require companies to disclose more of information about their greenhouse gas emissions. This is something that's been tried at a Or it's in the process of being developed , perhaps through regulations at the national level. California is getting out there in front and demanding it happen at a state level , and the business community is not happy about that. So we're going to kind of see what happens there and how how that really works works itself out and plays out as this goes , you know , into effect. Another would be a bill that's banning certain ingredients that go into foods. This got a lot of attention because people were worried that it would result in basically California banning Skittles. That's not really what it does , but there are there are some ingredients that aren't allowed in the European Union that now won't be allowed in food in California. And so that's another thing where it could really change the marketplace , change consumer habits , what companies have to do. And that will be an interesting one to to track over time.

S1: And there's so much more to get into. But we're going to have to end this discussion there. I've been speaking with Jeremy B white. He covers California politics for Politico , and Alexis Joseph , who writes about all things Sacramento politics for Cal Matters. I want to thank you both so much for being here.

S2: Thank you.

S4: Great to be here.

S1: Just ahead on roundtable the new laws coming to California as the state tries to achieve net zero carbon emissions. That means more investments in renewable energy , like solar panels along our highways.

S5: There was one study that showed that nearly 1000MW of combined potential solar capacity along those busy roads were enough to power 270,000 homes. So that's the goal of Senate Bill 49.

S1: That's coming up next , just after the break. Welcome back to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. Among the hundreds of bills which landed on Governor Gavin Newsom's desk in recent weeks , many are focusing on the state's ongoing efforts to combat impacts from climate change. Several laws look to bolster renewable energy in our state and to limit carbon emissions. All of them are coming as the state continues its push to reach 100% clean energy and zero emissions by 2045. Here to tell us more , we're joined by Rob Nichols. He's the energy reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. And Sam Roth is here , climate columnist with the Los Angeles Times and author of its Boiling Point newsletter. I want to welcome you both here to roundtable. Let's just dive into this. Rob , we'll start with you. You know , among the bills that the governor has signed , a lot of them are aiming to sort of build out the state's renewable energy infrastructure. You wrote about Senate Bill 49 that would add solar panels to California's highways.

S5: The ride of waves of various highways all across the state of California. There's 15,000 miles of California highways that this bill would affect , and specifically through the San Diego , Los Angeles and Ventura County areas. There was one study that showed that nearly 1000MW of combined potential solar capacity along those busy roads were enough to power 270,000 homes. So that's the goal of Senate Bill 49. And the bill would also add battery storage facilities along the highways as well. It wouldn't happen right away. It's going to take a couple of years for Caltrans officials to develop a plan , but it's on its way.

S1: And we know that that wasn't the only action that the governor took when it comes to solar energy for our state. Sam and then Rob , feel free to jump in after.


S3: On the solar front , in particular with rooftop solar , there's there's been a lot of stuff coming out of the Public Utilities Commission that's been negative for rooftop solar lately. So at the end of last year , Governor Newsom's appointees on that commission really seriously reduced the rates that people get paid for the solar they generate on their rooftops. There's another proposal like that that would affect apartment renters that's going to get voted on at the PUC in a couple of weeks. So it was interesting to see legislatively , Newsom went and signed a couple of bills that would be positive for rooftop solar , one that would extend these caps on permitting fees to put solar on your roof. So that sort of prevents another possible obstacle there to going solar signed another bill that would make sure that there's still funding for a program to put solar panels on low income housing in particular. So those kind of cut a little bit against some of the more negative forces that that we've seen from solar that the Public Utilities Commission recently.

S1: And we know that one struggle for renewable energy , Rob , has been getting more wind and solar farms built. But one bill that the governor did sign recently aims to make that a little bit easier. We're talking about AB 1373 , and it has to do with like trying to achieve a clean energy grid by 2045 , right ? I mean , how is that going to help us get there ? Yeah.

S5: What AB 1373 is aimed at doing is really bolstering floating offshore wind off the coast of central California and northern California. Offshore wind is a big piece of this goal , that California has to derive 100% of its electricity from carbon free sources by the year 2045 , and. Offshore wind. Specifically , California policymakers are hoping that 25,000MW can be added to the grid in a little more than two decades. That would be enough to power 25 million homes and what AB 1373 would do. It would help give more economic certainty to private developers who want to develop those offshore wind sources off the coast of California. The legislation would also help with long duration battery storage and potential geothermal power plants in Imperial Valley.



S3: Mean , that's exactly right. Big turbines out there in the ocean. You know , there's opposition to that from some folks along the coast who don't want to look at those or who were worried about impacts to fishing industries. But one of the things that could be really valuable about offshore wind , as we look at that 100% clean energy by 2045 target , is that these are areas where the wind blows pretty strong late into the evening , so they'd be good at keeping the helping to keep the lights on after the sun goes down and all the solar panels stop generating , which , as folks may be aware , has been sort of an issue the last couple of years during these really bad late summer heat waves , in particular , when it's still hot after sundown , we all need air conditioning. Not quite enough power to go around. The state has been sort of begging people to use less during those hours , so offshore wind could be helpful with that. So could geothermal , which which Rob mentioned. Then there's these underground heat sources in certain parts of the state , especially down in the Imperial Valley by the border with Mexico , also up in the geysers area in northern California , where there are developers over time who have tapped down into that heat and used it to generate renewable electricity that tends to be more expensive than solar and wind. So you haven't seen quite as much of that getting developed recently. But this bill , in addition to creating a mechanism for the state to sort of sign up and buy some of that , that offshore wind power to help get those projects built , they could do the same thing for geothermal under this bill. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. If I could just jump in and add one more thing about offshore wind , which especially in California , it's going to be different than offshore wind that's being talked about and being built in off the coast of the Atlantic , right off the Atlantic coast in the United States , California and the West Coast is different because the offshore base for wind turbines , it drops precipitously off the continental shelf of off the West coast. So that means you're going to have to put these offshore wind turbines , these really , really tall turbines. You're going to have to float them , which is going to be a real engineering feat to say the least. But that's the plan , is to have these things float , and then they'll be connected to substations on land.

S1: And sticking on AB 1373. Rob , we know that state Senate Pro Tem Tony Atkins from San Diego actually added like sort of a controversial provision to the bill , it would basically allow for improvements to the San Vicente reservoir and that's near Lakeside.

S5: The provision doesn't mean that this San Vicente Reservoir project is going to become a reality , but it helps does help pave the way for it. That project in particular would be what's called a pumped hydro project. Pumped hydro , in a very short description , is you take water from a reservoir like the San Vicente Reservoir , then you build a smaller reservoir physically uphill , and then you send that water , you pump it up the hill and then you release it , just like a hydroelectric plant does. You release that water , and that rush of water generates power , generates energy. And you would use that just like Sammy was talking about how it's really important for California to be able to derive energy sources , especially carbon free sources , during these four to four p m to nine p m hours when the grid is really stressed. So that's the idea , AB thirteen forty seventy three that Senator Atkins was able to put this provision in. As I said , it's not going to mean that they're that pump storage is going to come to San Vicente , but it can help pave the way that it might happen down the road.

S1: And so it sounds like California and the legislature , the governor , are getting more serious about this push toward renewable energy or like actually like trying to get there. We know that there was also action on the move away from fossil fuels. And , Sammy , it sounds like one law is like meant to address unused oil wells.

S3: So there are wells that either haven't been formally shut down but are so low or so empty. That companies haven't touched them for a long time , or ones that in a lot of cases have just been abandoned by companies that have either gone out of business or just moved on to other sites. And you've got these sort of they call them orphan wells all over California , all over the country. It's they're a big source of air and water pollution. There's an increasing amount of science surrounding that , sort of the damaging impacts that there can be for communities that are surrounding these facilities or open landscapes where they might exist. The bill that Governor Newsom signed would require basically , that any time a company is buying an oil or gas well off of another company , that they've got to put up a bond to make sure that they have enough money to eventually cover the cost of sealing that well , when it reaches the end of its life. In theory , that's that's a pretty good protection that hopefully makes sure there's there's money on the line , that there's money that's stored on , stored somewhere so that when the time comes , this thing can actually get sealed without taxpayers having to pay for it. There was opposition to that. The Department of Finance , actually , in Governor Newsom's administration , came out and said that they actually thought this might have the the opposite effect , that these new financial obligations , that the burden that they would place on the oil and gas industry might actually cause more companies to fail and go out of business , which could leave more Wells orphaned inadvertently. Ultimately , Newsom listened to the environmentalists who didn't agree with that assessment and signed the bill and made the case that it would help.

S1: And , Rob , anything to add there ? Yeah , it.

S5: Was interesting because Sammy , as Sammy mentioned , you know , the oil industry was against this , saying that this bonding requirement might end up just incentivizing larger oil companies from buying smaller or taking on some of the responsibilities of these orphaned wells. But what I found really interesting was that Governor Newsom did sign that bill into law. And when the governor signs a bill into law , a lot of times when he he has what's called a signing statement , usually a signing statement accompanies a vetoed bill. There aren't very many signing statements that come when a bill actually gets signed into law. But there was a signing statement on that. And the interesting thing was that the governor acknowledged that the industry had some concerns in this in his note , and he said , quote , I look forward to working with the legislature to enact legislation to make any necessary revisions to address this risk. So he acknowledged that the oil industry may have had a point on that. And the Petroleum Western States Petroleum Association , which is a trade group , said that they look forward to working with the governor on possibly revising this. Whether that means there's another bill that goes into the next legislative session , we'll still have to wait and see on that.

S6: Well , you know , interesting.

S3: If we're going to get into the other oil and gas legislation that he signed , the other emissions legislation , he made the same point there. And some of this , some of the other big climate bills.

S1: And I guess let's just go there right now. You know , despite some of the movement toward renewable energy , gas prices , something that's always on people's mind. And Rob , it sounds like there were some several bills relating to gas and oil in this state.

S5: Back in March , there was the very awkwardly named Senate Bill one two , which sounds like like a , like an airplane from the 1960s or something. Supersonic airplane from the 1960s. But anyway , it created a division of petroleum market oversight and also helped create a first in the nation process to potentially penalize oil companies if they're deemed that they're gouging customers at the gas pump. So that was pretty big legislation. The oil companies and the petroleum refineries didn't want that bill passed naturally , but it did get passed , and it was signed into law in March. The Division of Petroleum Market Oversight recently named a new director who says he's going to keep an open mind and take a look at things. And if there is some sort of funny business going on with market manipulation , he's going to take a look at it , because that's been a very hot topic here in California for a long , long time. The debate whether or not this high price that we're paying in California is something that's justified or not.

S1: And we know the governor certainly thinks there is some funny business , as you put it , because he calls it like the mystery surcharge. But Sammy , you sort of called this one the most high profile climate story from this batch of bills. You wrote about a new law recently that would basically make big companies say how much carbon they're actually emitting into the atmosphere. Was that a contentious bill ? I mean , it sounds like something that would already be happening. And is it just to sort of track like who might be like a big polluter. Basically.

S3: Basically. And it was contentious. I mean , you had a lot of. There is a version of this bill in the previous legislative session that couldn't get through , and you had a lot of big companies who clearly don't want to be in a position of admitting how much emissions their operations lead to. They don't want to be consumers , to be looking at them and saying , hey , you're you're contributing a lot to climate change here , should really be doing business with you. So there was opposition. You still had a bunch of big companies that that want to tout their climate , climate credentials that came out in favor of it. But basically the thing that was most controversial here and that I think the biggest , the biggest part of it is that companies will be required to disclose not only the sort of direct carbon pollution from their operations. So if they generate power on site , for instance , or have truck drivers out there transporting stuff , but also what are called scope three emissions , which basically means across their supply chain to sort of all of the embedded emissions that go into the products that they procure and the deals they make with other companies and their supply chains , all of that they'll need to tally up and disclose as part of this bill , which is a pretty big deal , and that'll be pretty informative for folks. Interestingly , just like the one that Rob was talking about a couple of minutes ago , Newsom signed this bill with a signing statement where he essentially said , I do realize this could be inconvenient for a lot of businesses. Some of the deadlines in here might be hard for them to meet. It could be a financial burden on them. He said that he wants to work with the legislature next year to sort of clean up this bill , which is something that a lot of environmental activists are wary.

S6: About and. Samey.

S1: Samey. And another major win by conservationists , you say , is another bill like the 30 by 30 bill. Can you explain what the idea is behind this 30 by 30 bill ? I mean , sort of sounds like an ESPN piece , you know , 3030 and why people are excited about this. Yeah.

S6: Yeah.


S5: 3430.

S3: 3430. Thank you. Yeah , yeah I'm behind in ESPN. The idea behind 30 by 30 is that there's this campaign that a lot of scientists and conservation activists and policymakers in the United States , and all around the world have signed on to that. By the year 2030 , we should try to protect 30% of our lands and waters. So actually have , you know , like real durable , whether it's , you know , making them wilderness areas or banning development or preventing oil and gas drilling and all that across 30% of the land and water on planet Earth. The idea behind that is to protect biodiversity , to protect plants and animals from extinction , from human activity , and also to make sure that a lot of the carbon that's actually stored in these lands and water stays in the ground and doesn't get emitted up into the atmosphere. So forests are obviously a big one with all of the carbon that trees absorb , but also grasslands and wetlands and other types of ecosystems that would be sort of protected under this conception. They store carbon in them. And so Governor Newsom had sort of committed to this as an executive order a couple of years ago , that he endorsed this target and wanted California to meet this goal within the state. Now he's actually signed legislation that codifies it into law , that this is California's goal to protect 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. President Biden has endorsed that as well , by the way , but there's nothing that's come out of Congress on that one yet.

S6: And as we wrap.

S1: Up here , just some quick final thoughts. You know , I don't know if you guys , if there were any surprises in terms of climate and energy related laws or anything , you guys are going to be looking forward in the future. And Rob , we can start with you.

S5: The thing that surprised me was not just not related just to climate or energy was I was curious because I don't live in Sacramento. I don't cover the legislature on a full time basis. I was curious how many bills are introduced in a legislative session , how many of those bills actually make , navigate , or able to navigate their way and get to the governor's desk ? And I was surprised just the volume of them. I got a note back from the governor's office when I asked them that question. They said that 2600 bills get introduced or were introduced in this last legislative session. 840 of them made it through to the governor's desk. So , as I wrote in one of my earlier stories , I guess the governor's got a really big desk.

S1: A big desk , yeah. And , Sammy , you have the final word here.

S6: Well , one kind of.

S3: Wonky sounding , but very important issue that I've been following is the issue of transmission lines that we need to probably build lots and lots of new , new power lines to move electricity from all of these solar and wind farms out in different remote places to cities like LA and San Diego that need all the power. And building transmission lines has been a real challenge for for clean energy development and for addressing climate change and getting approval from all of the landowners. And these lines crossed and the costs of building them. There's all sorts of obstacles to it. So Senator Steve Padilla from Chula Vista had a really interesting bill , Senate Bill 619 , that would have attempted to speed up the permitting process for big power lines , basically by allowing developers to say that they didn't want the Public Utilities Commission to do an environmental review , they wanted the Energy Commission of California to do. That review instead because the PUC is notoriously slow with this. That legislation passed unanimously. Nobody voted against it and either House. But the PUC went to Newsom and said , we don't want you to sign this. And ultimately , Newsom did not sign it. So that's that's one that will be interesting to see if the legislature comes back and tries it again next year.

S1: I'm sure there's a lot more we could get into , but we're going to have to wrap it up there. I've been speaking with Rob Nichol from the San Diego Union Tribune and Sammy Roth from the Los Angeles Times , and both of you , thanks so much for being here.

S5: Thank you. Matt.

S3: Thanks , Matt. This was good.

S1: When Kpbs roundtable returns , we'll have a look at a few other stories in our weekly roundup with producer Andrew Bracken. That's next on Kpbs roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. It's roundup time. That's where me and producer Andrew Bracken discuss some other top stories happening in and around San Diego. Andrew. Happy Friday. Hey , Matt. All right.


S1: Done speaking.

S7: With San Diego Union Tribune reporter Rob Nichols about some of the bills related to climate and energy. He also published an article this week on battery storage and some alarming like recent fires , and how it's an ongoing problem with our move towards renewable energy. We're more reliant on battery storage , and there are these facilities that , you know , contain a lot of batteries for charging. And the couple fires have happened. The most recent September 18th , happened at a Valley Center industrial complex owned by tarragon.

S1: And those batteries are particularly important. I think Rob has talked about them on the roundtable before , like after the sun goes down. Right. Because like , especially for renewables , like there's no , no more solar power , which is a huge chunk. But if they can store that solar power during the day , that's where these batteries come in. And just reading his story , it's a really in-depth story , but basically it sounds like the batteries , just when they get used , they just get really hot. Yeah.

S7: Yeah. And he talks about this quote unquote thermal runaway and this problem of just , yeah , that excessive heat that can lead to these reactions that , you know , this this fire in Valley Center , you know , there were some evacuations as a result of it. So it's something it's a problem we're going to need to solve as we're becoming more dependent on battery storage , like you said , for our energy.

S1: And it sounds like maybe the solution to that is Rob writes lithium ion phosphate batteries that operate at lower temperatures , aka less prone to fires. All right.

S7: But we normally see that story of kids coming from Mexico going to the United States. And this is a story of the flip side of students on the US side of the border going to attend a university in Mexico. And in that story , he spoke with the president of one private university in Tijuana , City's president , Fernando Leon Garcia. And this is a little of what he had to say.

S8: We know that here , especially those who are in the San Juan area , it goes in both directions. And education is not an exception.

S7: I think what's really interesting is that this is just such a different direction that we normally think of it. Also in that article , Gustavo speaks with an academic who kind of talks about how it's normally foreign students go to the United States rather than leave , but it just shows there's , you know , the cost of living , the cost of college. All these things are kind of changing that dynamic along the border somewhat.

S1: And it was interesting when they talked about like cost because , you know , like when we on the show before , we've talked about how housing is certainly cheaper south of the border. And he says that , you know , tuition is about $5,000 per semester. But , you know , while that's cheaper than UC San Diego for in-state tuition rates , UC San Diego is like 7500. Gustavo says it's 4000 Sdsu , so it's a little bit more expensive if you're from California to go south of the border to that college other than going to San Diego State. But I think , as the story points out , it is much , much more cost effective if you're out of state.

S7: And you also talked about the opportunities to work in Mexico cities , you know , it's like more of a technical engineering school. So it sounds like there's a lot of professional opportunities that come from both sides of the border for a lot of the former students. And it's , you know , like hundreds of local students that are , you know , living in the US and attending that school now.

S1: Yeah , just this one school , they say , like 350 American resident students , about 10% of the overall student body. And they expect that to grow in the coming years. All right.

S7: There's been efforts to get state of emergency declarations at both the state level and the national level. And it looks like right now there is no state of emergency from California , according to Governor Newsom's office. They say there's some jurisdictional issues. In this article by San Diego Union-Tribune Tami Murga it sounds like the Coastal Commission will be looking to put more pressure on President Biden to make that emergency declaration to allow for , you know , handling this sewage situation in South Bay.

S1: And we know that a lot of local leaders we've had , you know , Kpbs , Eric Anderson on here talking about that , that those leaders in the South Bay , they wanted both a state and federal emergency. There was even that article that McKenzie from Voice of San Diego did , kind of trying to break it , break it down. And they were saying , well , we're not saying we're not going to declare one , but we're not saying we are. But so now they're saying we're. Not going to declare a state of emergency and kind of passing it off to the federal government to handle.

S7: Yeah , that's what it sounds like. A lot is at stake for those communities , and I know they're looking for a lot of federal help to improve some of those wastewater treatment plants and to build new facilities to help hopefully solve that problem once and for all in the coming years.

S1: Something will definitely keep following. All right.

S7: Axios Christine Claridge had a piece about looks like , you know , about a 70% chance for a strong El Nino. And that would run as soon as November through early next year.


S7: El ninos vary quite a bit , but I think one general characteristic has been it's drier in the north and it's wetter here in the Southern California. Yes. Well we have.

S1: Started to see some rain that was rain earlier this week and it's starting to get a lot colder at night too.

S7: They do emphasize these are just predictions. And predictions vary. And if you remember I think going into last winter , I don't think they could have predicted the amount of rainfall. We got more in early 2023. But , you know , near record amounts of rainfall parts of this past year we received and.

S1: It sounds like you have sort of another environment , one although much different than this last story.

S7: This Saturday there's going to be an annual solar eclipse. They call it the Ring of Fire eclipse. And NBC San Diego has has a write up on it. Some places you can see it. But basically the moon's passing between the Earth and the sun , and that'll happen Saturday morning between about eight and 11. And they say that the peak viewing time , the best view is going to be around 930. And fleet science centers having an event there. San Diego Public Library. You can find more. Kpbs has a little write up on it , but there's going to be a number of of viewing events around San Diego Saturday morning.

S1: And if you're looking for more information on there , you mentioned that we do have some of that on our website. Yeah.

S7: Yeah. And the last thing I'll say on this is actually there's a bigger total solar eclipse that'll be coming in April of 2024 , I think it's April 8th. And that one is really like a once in a lifetime type solar eclipse. And that's an eclipse that a lot of people will be traveling for the sort of ideal places. I think it's like parts of Texas , parts of Mexico will have the ideal viewing path to see that. But that's like the big one that that I've heard is coming in the spring. So , you know , kind of plan out for that to.

S1: Mark your calendars six months away only. Andrew Bracken , thanks for being here on the roundup.

S7: Thank you Matt.

S1: That's going to round out roundtable this week. We appreciate you being here with us. If you have a question or comment about any of these new laws that you heard today , you can leave us a voicemail. (619) 452-0228. You can also email us roundtable at And keep in mind , as always , if you missed any part of our show , go ahead and check out the Kpbs roundtable podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Roundtable airs on Kpbs FM at noon on Fridays and again on Sunday at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. Rebecca Chacon and Adrian Villalobos are our technical producers , and I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us. Have a great weekend.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs off on two proposals in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, to transform the state's mental health system and address the state's worsening homelessness crisis, putting them both before voters in 2024.
Damian Dovarganes
California Gov. Gavin Newsom signs off on two proposals in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, to transform the state's mental health system and address the state's worsening homelessness crisis, putting them both before voters in 2024.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Saturday to sign or veto bills passed from this year's legislative session.

This week on KPBS Roundtable, we take a look at some of the notable bills he has signed and vetoed that impact the future of renewable energy, housing and labor in the state.


Jeremy B. White, senior reporter, Politico

Alexei Koseff, reporter, CalMatters

Rob Nikolewski, energy reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Sammy Roth, climate columnist, Los Angeles Times