Political Notebook

Activists urge Perea to support controversial greenhouse gas bills

Dolores Weller, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, addresses the media outside of the Hugh Burns State Building in downtown Fresno. The group later delivered posters to the local office of Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno.
Dolores Weller, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, addresses the media outside of the Hugh Burns State Building in downtown Fresno. The group later delivered posters to the local office of Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno. The Fresno Bee

A group of local clean air activists including the Sierra Club and the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition this week called on Assembly Member Henry T. Perea to support controversial legislation now pending in the state Legislature that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California.

Shortly after the activists delivered posters to Perea’s Fresno office on Tuesday, the state Assembly voted down one of the two bills that are part of that legislation. Perea was a no vote, contributing to the defeat.

Both Senate Bill 32 and Senate Bill 350 had easily passed out of the state Senate. But then the legislation ran into trouble in the state Assembly as a group of moderate Democrats led by Perea, as well as Republicans, voiced concerns.

On Wednesday, a further setback in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases occurred when Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders abandoned an effort to require a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use in California by 2030. But the decision could be what is needed to get the legislation through the Assembly, even though it lacks its original vision.

But it might not make central San Joaquin Valley clean-air activists too happy.

Before the latest SB 350 developments, Rev. Chris Breedlove, pastor of Community United Church of Christ, said outside of Perea’s Fresno office that the San Joaquin Valley’s health issues that are being driven by poor air quality “requires that we lead the moral way, the just way” and approve the legislation.

We cannot wait for the federal government to take action on climate change.

Dolores Weller, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition

Dolores Weller, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, said if the San Joaquin Valley would meet air quality standards, it would save the region $6 billion annually by having fewer emergency room visits, fewer premature deaths, fewer missed school and work days and fewer health cases such as bronchitis.

“We cannot wait for the federal government to take action on climate change,” she said.

In an interview, Weller added, “We want to see good progressive policies on the books. (Perea’s) constituents are asking for it.”

SB 350, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would, among other things, require the state to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030.

SB 32, the companion legislation by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Both bills build on the state’s landmark Assembly Bill 32, which requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

In the past, Perea has said he and other moderate Assembly Democrats do not want to see the legislation die. But they did have concerns, including how the regulations and costs associated with the bills could economically hurt the central San Joaquin Valley. Still, Perea said he is taking everyone’s viewpoint into consideration on the bills – including clean air activists.

“I have personally met with supporters on at least eight different occasions in both Sacramento and in the district,” he said. “I’m always open to hearing all sides of an argument on any issue to bring stakeholders to a consensus.”

After the Wednesday announcement by Brown and de León removing the 50 percent petroleum use by 2030 language, Perea put out a statement saying he now supported SB 350.

“SB 350 will set California apart as a leader in climate change policy and will go a long way in reducing emissions in areas like the Central Valley, that suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation,” the statement said. “I support SB 350 because it will improve our existing policy framework by driving down greenhouse gas emissions, and expanding the renewable energy market in California.”

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