Earlier this month, Sierra Club California released its annual legislative report card, which reviews the performance of California’s state legislators and Governor Newsom on issues related to protecting the environment and our communities. This year included some important wins for the environment, thanks to both veteran and newly elected legislators who were willing to push for the changes our state needs. On the other hand, we found Newsom’s performance this year a “mixed bag.”
The 2023 legislative session started off with a bleak fiscal outlook for the state, with multiple sources predicting a significant budget shortfall. These concerns made Sierra Club’s legislative advocacy efforts even more urgent, as we worked to ensure the state’s environmental concerns received continued support and corporate accountability wasn’t pushed aside in the name of greater profits. These efforts and the continued support of Sierra Club volunteers and members across the state paid off! Sierra Club California began the year tracking 601 bills that were introduced, supporting 138. Of the 138 we supported, 65 reached the Governor’s desk with an additional 20 bills carrying over to 2024 as 2-year bills.
"Together, we’ve achieved progress for California’s environment, and we’re determined to keep pushing for positive change next year." - Sierra Club California Director Brandon Dawson
While there are still significant environmental challenges to be addressed, this year’s legislative successes give us hope for the coming year. Sierra Club California scored 14 bills this year, 9 originating in the Assembly and 5 originating in the Senate, in order to score State Legislators and the Governor across a wide breadth of environmental issues. Our highest accolade is given to legislators who vote with Sierra Club California on our scored environmental bills, and this year that included 22 Senators and 24 Assemblymembers. That is up from 1 Senator and 5 Assemblymembers in 2022! This increase is coming from both veteran and freshman legislators and is a result of continued advocacy from Sierra Club California, our members, and partners in Sacramento and across the state. Read the full Report Card here to see how your elected representatives voted on these critical bills.
Sierra Club California’s work goes beyond votes and legislative advocacy. Defending the environment is a team effort that requires a broad coalition of support. As we look to 2024,we’re considering what issues we want to prioritize and what policies we’ll be advocating on both at the legislature and the ballot box. We can’t do this without your support. Stay tuned for updates on how you can help us engage in these efforts in the coming year!
Our 30x30 Efforts this Fall
It’s been an eventful fall for 30x30! In early October, SB 337 was signed into law - codifying the 30x30 goal to ensure the state’s commitment extends beyond the current administration. SB 337 provides leverage for us to hold future administrations accountable to reaching 30x30.
Shortly after, Sierra Club volunteers and staff from across the state gathered with around 350 others in Riverside at the 30x30 Partnership Event hosted by CA Natural Resources Agency, CA Biodiversity Network, and by our partners at Power In Nature. This event was an opportunity for folks who work on all aspects of 30x30 to gather and share successes, build community, and identify ways to work together to reach our collective biodiversity, equity, access, conservation, and climate resilience goals.
We are excited to build off of the momentum of this event by continuing to build power for locally led 30x30 efforts with our new found connections, increase our collaboration and partnerships with Tribes, and push the state for more community engagement and capacity building across California.
The event in Riverside gave us the opportunity to highlight current 30x30 campaigns and opportunities, including the 4 National Monument campaigns that are currently in full swing. You can learn more and take action by signing petitions for these important designations here: Molok Luyuk, San Gabriel Mountains, Chuckwalla and Medicine Lake Highlands. Additionally, the Chumash Heritage Marine Sanctuary campaign gathered over 10,000 signatures before the end of the comment period in October.
The progress and success of these campaigns could not have been achieved without the hard work of our organizers, coalition partners, and local chapters taking the lead on these community priorities. As we look towards 2024, we will continue to prioritize support for local chapters’ priorities. Keep an eye on your inbox for ways to get involved as we mobilize locally to achieve our 30x30 in the coming year.
Help Us Oppose Two Upcoming Environmentally Harmful State Water Projects
On September 28, the State Water Board released an update to the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan (Bay-Delta Plan). This update, known as Phase II of the Bay-Delta Plan, is centered on freshwater flows in the Sacramento River, its tributaries, and flows in the Delta.
The State will be hosting a series of comment hearings on Nov. 17, Dec. 1, and Dec. 11 to allow for members of the public to give oral comments on the Bay Delta plan update. Participation can either be remote or in person at the Cal EPA headquarters. Written comments are due Dec. 15.
We need your voice to ensure the state protects the Bay-Delta. Register to attend the comment hearings here.
Phase I of the update to the Bay-Delta Plan was released in December 2018 and focused on flows in the Lower San Joaquin River, the other major river that flows north into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta. Ongoing negotiations over the “Voluntary Agreements” (VAs) - which set flow standards between state officials and water suppliers that exclude input from members of the public - have substantially delayed implementation of Phase 1 and adoption of Phase 2 updates to the Bay Delta Plan
The VAs are not a substitute for science based flow standards, yet the State Water Board is still evaluating the VAs as an alternative in the most recent Phase II Bay-Delta Plan update. It’s imperative the state instead prioritize local water solutions instead of big agribusiness supported policies like the VAs.
Speaking of disastrous water policy being promoted by the State - on Nov. 6, Gov. Newsom granted judicial streamlining for the costly and environmentally destructive Sites Reservoir project. Instead of waiting for the State Water Board to implement the Bay-Delta Plan that could provide increased protections and freshwater flows to address water quality issues in the Delta and its tributaries, the Governor decided to fast-track CEQA review of this project. This will exacerbate existing environmental problems in the region such as harmful algal blooms, salinity in the Delta, mass fish die-offs, and temperature management in the Sacramento River.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee will have 30 days to concur in the Governor’s recommendation, or prevent this project from being inappropriately streamlined. Sierra Club California and our allies will be working to urge the committee to vote against streamlining Sites. Stay tuned for future updates on how you can get involved.
Thank you for being a part of our work! Consider making a monthly donation. You may securely donate online or by sending a check to Sierra Club California at 909 12th Street, Suite 202, Sacramento, CA 95814.