California Legislative Priorities for 2021

California State Capitol

Clean Water Action plays an active role in the state legislative process.  We introduce and sponsor bills to protect our environment and communities, work to stop bills that roll back environmental and environmental justice protections, and provide expertise to decision makers on water, toxics, and community impacts.  This year Clean Water Action is sponsoring fix bills that will protect the public from toxic chemical exposures and ensure that all Californians have access to safe water.  We will also campaign for bills to address the devastating harm to the health and safety of communities living near oil and gas extraction fields and hazardous waste sites. 

Here is a quick outline of some of the key legislation Clean Water Action is focused on in 2021.

Ensuring Safe and Affordable Water for All Communities

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing inequities of water access and affordability in the California. Up to 5 million Californians – located predominantly in the same low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 - live in households with growing levels of water debt. Total water debt is estimated to be over $1 billion and grows by nearly $100 million every month.  This means an avalanche of water shutoffs could limit water access for millions of Californians.  Meanwhile, lost revenue has pushed more than 100 small water systems to the brink of collapse, jeopardizing the only water source for the disproportionately Black, Indigenous and communities of color they serve. Clean Water Action sponsored two companion bills to address this unsustainable threat to public health., SB 222 and SB 223 with Senator Bill Dodd (D-3). 

SB 222 (Dodd) would establish a long-needed framework for a statewide water affordability assistance program that would help provide water affordability assistance for both drinking & wastewater services to low-income ratepayers. SB 222 passed through the Senate floor with a 31-7 vote and will now be moving onto the Assembly!

SB 223 (Dodd) which would strengthen and extend inadequate existing water shutoff and bill repayment protocols and procedures to better protect all low-income California households that may face or have already experienced water service disconnections due to the water customer’s inability to pay their water bill. SB 223 was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee and will no longer be moving forward this session. 

Take action now to support SB 222!

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SB 403 (Gonzalez) will help prevent Californians from losing access to safe drinking water by giving the State Water Board (which regulates public water systems) the authority to order systems to consolidate when they are deemed “at risk” of failure, without having to wait until residents are endangered by unsafe water supplies. This bill has passed the Senate and now being considered in the Assembly.

SB 552 (Hertzberg) seeks to improves drought preparedness for small and rural communities by making various changes to local drought and water shortage contingency plans and by enhancing coordination between local and state governments, small water suppliers, and rural communities. This bill has passed through the Senate and being considered in the Assembly.

Protecting Fenceline Communities from Oil and Gas Production and Toxic Chemicals

Fenceline communities living next to oil and gas fields, hazardous waste sites, and industrial facilities bear a disproportionate burden of pollution and related health impacts, while reaping few of the economic benefits. Most often, these communities are low income and communities of color.  Among the bills that Clean Water Action will be providing guidance on, in order to ensure that they truly protect these vulnerable populations, are the following:

SB 467 (Limón & Wiener) phases out the use of enhanced oil recovery methods and placement of a 2500ft health and safety buffer zone (Did Not Pass) – While this bill aimed at protecting our most vulnerable did not move forward our efforts were not in vain. We were able to build enough support to push Governor Newsom to announce a phase out of fracking by 2024. We have also shown the huge support for a health and safety buffer zone and await CalGEM’s response in their draft regulations coming out this summer. 

AB 1 (C. Garcia) is part of a joint effort by both the Legislature and Administration to reform the Department of Toxic Substances Control, which has come under fire for failing to oversee hazardous waste sites and other polluting facilities poisoning the air, water, and soil of nearby communities.  Clean Water Action is part of a coalition working to ensure the bill includes greater departmental oversight, as well as funding solutions to enable the department to implement its programs. AB 1 has passed through the Assembly and now moves on to the Senate! 

 

Addressing Lead in Water

There is no safe level of lead, which can enter drinking water from leaded pipes and leaching from faucets and fixtures. Lead in adults can cause cardiovascular problems, kidney problems and reproductive harm. Even low levels of lead in children can lead to permanent harm, including lower IQ, behavioral problems, impaired hearing, anemia, and slowed growth.

AB 100 (Holden), co-sponsored by Clean Water Action, will require that all faucets or fixtures sold in California by a specified date must meet the newest certified standard and not leach more than an average of 1 microgram per liter of lead. Currently, faucets sold in the state can leach as much as 5

micrograms of lead per liter, on average.  This new standard, recently approved by NSF International, is the strictest – and most protective - in the nation. The bill passed the Assembly and is now being considered in the Senate.

Tackling PFAS Contamination

Clean Water Action is continuing its work to eradicate the use of toxic PFAS “forever” chemicals. This year we are turning our attention to food packaging and cookware, both of which are major exposure routes in humans of these toxic chemicals and sources of PFAS in the environment.

AB 1200 (Ting) is cosponored by Clean Water Action. This bill will 1) ban the use of intentionally added PFAS in all food packaging, 2) require information on materials contained in cookware and 3) include a “truth in advertising” component that will not allow cookware labels to claim the product does not contain a specific chemical if it does contain another chemical in the same toxic family.  For instance, a Teflon™ pan cannot say it is “PFOA free” if it contains other PFAS chemicals. AB 1200 passed through the state Assembly, and now faces challenges in the Senate.

Please tell your State Senator know that you want them to support this important bill by clicking here.

Clean Water Action also supports AB 652 (Friedman), which will ban PFAS in specific children’s products.

To learn more about PFAS, visit this page.

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