The governor of California delivered a blow to the environmental community recently by vetoing a bill that would have ensured that laws protecting water, as well as air, climate, worker safety and endangered species, could not be weakened by future federal government rollbacks.
At Orange County Coastkeeper, we are disappointed that Gov. Gavin Newsom chose to veto SB 1 because of pressure from water interests, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley.
We hope for a future where the environmental flows actually have water rights, so there’s a seat at the table when water is allocated.
How much of our precious water should go to agriculture at the expense of the environmental flows that support natural habitats, when the products produced are exported out of the country? Should California’s environment suffer so agriculture can profit from exporting their products all over the world?
We hope for a future where the environmental flows actually have water rights, so there’s a seat at the table when water is allocated. Right now, the environment gets what’s left over after agriculture and urban populations get what they need – nature and habitats should have a guaranteed allocation as well.
California Senate Bill 1 – the “California Environmental, Public Health, and Workers Defense Act of 2019,” introduced by California Senate Leader Toni Atkins, Senator Anthony Portantino and Senator Henry Stern, would have guaranteed that environmental protection laws would not become any less strict than they were in January 2017.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration threatened the nation’s water by attempting to redefine what waters are covered under the Clean Water Act – known as “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). This proposal would remove protection from roughly 60% of streams and 110 million acres of wetlands across the U.S.
Without the protections of Senate Bill 1, Orange County waterways could become so polluted that people won’t be able to enjoy them.
Deregulation on this scale would be detrimental to California’s public health, wildlife and waterways.
Much like our California neighbors, Orange County Coastkeeper believes clean water is a right to all of us who live here. Yet, we continue to grow concerned by the lack of access to clean water across the U.S. We’ve watched the drinking water disaster unfold in Flint, Michigan, and have seen firsthand the lack of clean water in California, where several areas across the state have to rely solely on drinking bottled water. Ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 in an attempt to keep water clean and safe.
This essential law is under attack with the current administration. The Clean Water Act is the foundation for how organizations like Orange County Coastkeeper fight for swimmable, drinkable, fishable, and sustainable water.
Without the protections of Senate Bill 1, Orange County waterways could become so polluted that people won’t be able to enjoy them. The cleaner air that Los Angeles has fought for through the past three decades could all be erased. Endangered species like the famous California condor could be wiped out by the loss of protection.
The senators behind SB 1 were not asking to revolutionize California’s environmental protection laws; they just don’t want things to get worse.
A recent study by the California Public Policy Institute posed the question: How important is the health of the ocean and beaches to the future economy and quality of life for California? Not surprisingly, a vast majority of Californians recognize the importance of our coastal environments – 95% responded this to be either very or somewhat important. If we all share the common notion that our oceans and beaches in California are vital to our future, why isn’t more being done to protect our waters?
It’s essential that we keep fighting to keep protections in place for our water and work toward a balanced allocation of water for the sake of the natural environment.
Editor’s Note: Garry Brown is the founding director of Orange County Coastkeeper. The organization, created in 1999, advocates for enforcement of the Clean Water Act to block contaminants in streams, harbors, and oceans.