State climate laws and disaster preparedness top Cal Cities’ environmental agenda

Mar 27, 2024

By Melissa Sparks-Kranz, legislative affairs lobbyist (environmental quality) and Brian Hendershot, Cal Cities Advocate Managing Editor

Cal Cities has made state climate laws, disaster preparedness, and local climate action its top environmental priorities this year.

The Cal Cities-sponsored SB 972 (Min) would help cities meet their organic waste diversion goals. A 2023 report found that the amount of organic waste in landfills increased by a million tons between 2014 and 2020, a trend at odds with the goal of reducing methane emissions. Legislators have introduced about a dozen bills in response.

Sen. Dave Min plans to amend SB 972 to require CalRecycle to strengthen its assistance efforts for cities actively working to reduce organic waste in landfills and methane emissions. CalRecycle would also need to report back to the Legislature on the organic waste diversion progress and how to better align the law with the state’s other climate goals where organic waste could be re-used.

Another Cal Cities-sponsored measure, AB 2330 (Holden), would streamline the process for vegetation removal and fuel management in Fire Hazard Severity Zones (FHSZ) near urban communities. Long timelines are delaying local efforts in areas most at risk of catastrophic wildfires. The size and severity of wildfires in California have increased, with 20 of the most destructive wildfires occurring over the past four years.

AB 2330 would also require the state to overlay existing critical habitat maps with FHSZ maps to identify lands that could benefit from the streamlined permitting process.

Climate action investments

Cal Cities is advocating for a climate bond, with some key caveats. AB 1567 (Garcia) and SB 867 (Allen) — two $15 billion climate bond bills from 2023 — would invest in a range of areas, including sea level rise, green spaces, water, and extreme heat. Cal Cities has a support if amended position for both bills. It is urging the authors to ensure funding for above- and below-ground water storage, organic waste diversion, zero-emission public fleets, and other critical areas.

Cal Cities anticipates the bond will shrink to about half its current size to move forward. The Governor’s proposed budget reflected an 11% reduction of over $5 billion in climate change programs due to the growing budget deficit. A climate bond would provide the long-term capital and infrastructure funding needed for cities and communities to continue advancing climate programs.   

What’s next?

Legislators wrapped up the first round of major bill introductions earlier this month and are now out of town for spring recess. They return to Sacramento on April 1, marking the start of the true legislative debate in earnest.

Legislative policy committees will also resume then. These focused meetings are great opportunities for city officials to voice their support and opposition to specific legislation. Cal Cities prepares sample letters of support and opposition for some key bills, which are already available via the Cal Cities bill search