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California Governor Signs New Climate Change Law

A new climate change law (SB 350) dealing with building efficiencies and renewable energy was signed into law Wednesday by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who had suggested more sweeping legislation but settled for something less.

Brown said California has "deepened its commitment" to increasing the efficiency of cars, buildings and appliances, along with increasing its use of renewable energy. SB 350 includes some "groundbreaking steps," according to the governor. The new law includes steps that Brown outlined in his January inaugural address (see Daily GPIJan. 6).

State agencies, such as the five-member California Energy Commission (CEC), said they will immediately move to implement the new law. The oil/gas industry's Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) reserved judgment on SB 350, but reiterated a longstanding contention that fossil fuels need to be part of the dialogue on climate change and the energy industry's role in addressing its challenges.

In September, California lawmakers passed a watered-down version of SB 350 and an oil pipeline safety measure (SB 414) directly related to the Plains All American Pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara in May. State lawmakers and Brown gave up on two measures that were designed to support Brown's climate change response (see Daily GPIApril 30). As a result, a provision for cutting by half the use of petroleum products in transportation by 2030 was stripped out of SB 350, and a separate bill's (SB 32) call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 was held over for consideration next year.

The new law requires California to increase its renewable portfolio standard to 33% by 2020 and 50% by the end of 2030, and requires the CEC to establish annual targets for existing buildings to achieve a cumulative doubling of energy efficiency savings in natural gas and electricity by the start of 2030.

Called the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, the law also allows for the state grid operator, the California Independent System Operator, to voluntarily transform into a wider-based regional organization that helps spread renewables and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions beyond California to neighboring states.

"We are confident that Californians are ready to increase our use of renewable energy and make our homes and businesses even more energy efficient," said Robert Weisenmiller, CEC chairman. Weisenmiller said California was showing that GHG emissions can be cut while creating jobs and providing energy in "a safe, reliable and cost-effective" way, along with opening the door to spreading renewables on a wider regional basis.

WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said her organization and its member companies in the oil/gas sector "will continue to work with Gov. Brown, state legislators, regulators and community stakeholders on strategies that balance and protect California's energy, environmental and economic future."

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