Legislature's first big environmental proposal of 2019 targets potential federal rollbacks

Senate Bill 1 would enshrine federal clean water, environmental protection, and endangered species laws in state legislation

Western Snowy Plovers are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Photo: Mike Baird

Before the 2019 California legislative session began on Jan. 7, lawmakers rolled out what is likely to be one of the year’s biggest legislative proposals. Senate Bill 1, called the California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019, seeks to protect the state from array of federal environmental rollbacks of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other laws.

“Californians are feeling the impacts of climate change here and now, and they want us to find solutions,” said California Senate Leader Toni Atkins, one of the authors of the bill. “This measure is about preserving some of the qualities that make California such a special place to live and work, from our environment to workers’ rights.”

Audubon California Director of Public Policy Michael Lynes said that his organization supports the measure.

“We believe it’s important to protect the environmental treasures that we so highly value in California,” he said. “The Endangered Species Act is perhaps the most valued and successful environmental laws in our country’s history.”

Other authors of the bill include Sen. Anthony Portantino and Sen. Henry Stern.

SB 1 would makes current federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under state law, even if the federal government rolls back and weakens those standards.

It would also direct state environmental, public health, and worker safety agencies to take all actions within their authorities to ensure standards in effect and being enforced as of January 2017 remain in effect.

This measure is similar to Senate Bill 49, which passed the State Senate last year before stalling in the State Assembly.

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