In the midst of over a year of energy disasters around the world, Californians have been given a reason to celebrate and look forward to a safer energy future. Today Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a historic mandate that will put California back at the forefront of the clean energy movement.
Senate Bill X1 – 2 (Simitian), better known as SB 2X, mandates that providers of electricity in California increase their supply of renewable energy to 33 percent by the year 2020. Iterations of the bill limped along the past three years, once making it all the way to former Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk where it fell victim to his veto pen; other times it didn’t even round up enough votes of support to pass out of the legislature.
This year was a different story.
These factors made the timing ripe:
* California’s 2010 election results helped replace some of the legislators who were in the pockets of the polluting industries with new environmental champions who put the best interests of the public first. It also gave us a new governor who sees the connection between support for the clean energy sector and the movement towards economic recovery for the state.
* Grassroots actions including hundreds of calls and emails from constituents urging support for SB 2X to targeted swing-voting legislators helped demonstrate increasing public support from around the state.
* The idea of investing in renewable energy became connected with economic recovery, helping garner bipartisan support for SB 2X. A record high of six votes in the legislature came from Republicans whose districts are expected to receive jobs and other economic benefits from the new standard.
The movement towards clean, safe energy also received mounting momentum from the number of recent tragedies that have occurred around dirty energy extraction and production. April, in fact, marks the one year anniversary of the biggest environmental disaster in our nation’s history – BP’s Gulf Coast oil spill. Here are some of the others:
* The nuclear crisis in Japan, where the full extent of the damage is still unknown
* The explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia which resulted in the deaths of 29 workers
* The pollution of groundwater supplies around the nation as a result of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas
With a laundry list like that, it’s hard to find a reason not to support SB 2X. Aside from being the safe option, though, SB 2X will stimulate one of the bright spots in California’s economy. Investors have been waiting for this kind of green light indicating that California is moving forward on renewable energy. Without the mandate for an increase in renewable energy that SB 2X calls for, investors would be more likely to take their projects and jobs to other states.
Aware of the economic potential of SB 2X early on, labor worked in coalition with the environmental movement to see that Californians be put back to work with the green jobs of the future. Asked about SB 2X, California Building Trades President and CA League of Conservation Voters Board Member Bob Balgenorth said:
“We worked hard for two solid years to get this bill passed, because Building Trades workers understand that a healthier environment and a stronger economy go hand-in-hand. This measure provides multiple benefits for Californians: thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy, the cleaner and healthier environment that will result, and billions of dollars worth of construction projects for tens of thousands of California workers. This great legislation was enacted because the labor and environmental communities worked together, for the benefit of all of us.”
As Governor Brown signs SB 2X into law, let’s not forget that the impacts extend beyond California. This is where environmental legacies stem from. And with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu by the Governor’s side as he signed the bill into law, it’s hard not to hope that our influence will extend to the federal government once again.