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 six 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 $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. These Clean Water Action sponsored bills will address this unsustainable threat to public health.

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 223 (Dodd) strengthens and extends 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.

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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.

Protecting Fenceline Communities from Oil and Gas Production and Toxic Chemicals

Support SB 467 to protect communities from oil and gas activitiesFenceline 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 – such as fracking and steam injection – for oil extraction.  It would ban the issuance of new permits in 2022, and sunset existing permits by 2027.  These methods are some of the most harmful to local communities. The bill will also require a 2500-foot separation – or setback – between oil and gas operations and vulnerable communities.

AB 1 (C. Garcia):  This bill 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.

Download our fact sheet here.

Addressing Lead in Water

Two Clean Water Action sponsored bills address the serious threat of lead, which can enter drinking water from leaded pipes and from 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) 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, on average, on a regular basis.  This new standard, recently approved by NSF International, is the strictest – and most protective- in the nation.

SB 526 (Min) will fix a loophole in current California law that allows water systems to do “partial lead line replacements” that do not include lateral pipes running through private property.  These partial line replacements can increase lead exposure when a lead line is cut or disturbed and the inside coating that prevents the water from being contaminated breaks apart.  SB 526 will put a moratorium on partial lead line replacements until 2025, in order to allow state regulators to develop programs to either finance full lead line replacements or provide protective measures to reduce public exposure to lead. [SB 526 is co-authored in the Assembly by Assemblymember Richard Bloom].

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 of these toxic chemicals, and sources of PFAS in the environment. 

AB 1200 (Ting):  This bill will do 3 important things: 1) ban the use of intentionally added PFAS in all food packaging, 2) require a warning on cookware in English and in Spanish if the product contains any chemicals listed on the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control’s list of chemicals that may cause harm to humans and the environment, along with a website to find further information, 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.  

To learn more about PFAS, visit this page.