September 27, 2019
Contact: Kathryn Phillips
SACRAMENTO—Governor Gavin Newsom today vetoed Senate Bill 1, the California Environmental, Public Health and Workers Defense Act of 2019.
The bill, introduced by Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, would have ensured that state laws protecting endangered species, air quality, water, and worker safety would fill gaps in state protections left by rollbacks in federal regulation by the Trump administration. The legislation has been called the “Trump Insurance” bill.
The legislation had strong support from a coalition of environmental groups, environmental justice groups, labor unions, the fishing industry and business interests. It was also supported by Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been responsible for filing dozens of lawsuits to try to block Trump’s regulatory weakening.
The bill passed in the Assembly on the last day of the legislative session with 48 votes (it needed just 41 to pass) and by 26 votes on concurrence in the Senate (it needed just 21 votes).
Lead opposition to the bill came from agriculture and water interests who have long opposed the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and have embraced the Trump administration’s recent rollback in that law’s implementation. Some of these interests, including the Metropolitan Water District, a water wholesaler based in Southern California, have also been lead proponents of a tunnel project to divert water from the San Francisco Bay-Delta.
That diversion has been constrained by ESA protections of fish and wildlife dependent on the Delta and the river systems that feed it.
Statement by Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California:
“The veto is disappointing and illuminating.
“We expected this governor to be better than his predecessors on environmental issues that address water and natural resources. With this veto, we are seeing more of the same overzealous alignment with interests that want to exploit natural resources without regard to the environment or the public interest.
“And we’re seeing this alignment at a time when it presents serious risk to California.
“By vetoing this bill, the governor has sided with the industry interests who have embraced Trump’s attacks on environmental protections.
“After SB 1 passed, the governor indicated he thought the bill would interfere with the so-called voluntary settlement negotiations about river flows. In fact, the bill has nothing to do with the voluntary settlement talks other than that the bill’s opponents threatened to walk out of those talks if the governor signed a bill they didn’t like.
“So the special interests threatened and won. Newsom blinked and he blinked without meeting with bill supporters and learning about the real content of the bill and the real risk to California.
“It’s disappointing and illuminating.”