One of the most influential voices in California environmental policy is a
name hardly anyone outside the Capitol has ever heard. But for anyone who
wants to pass a significant piece of environmental legislation, there’s one
senior staffer who comes to mind–Kip Lipper.
His fourth-floor Senate office is so packed with boxes and overflowing with
paperwork that some joke it is where he stores the Capitol’s institutional
memory on environmental issues. Others, including some legislators, have
called Lipper the Senate’s 41st senator–a designation that embarrasses him,
his friends say.
Bill Magavern, senior representative for Sierra Club, says Lipper, whose
real first name is Kernan, is simply “the most influential Capitol staffer
on environmental issues.”
Lipper prefers to work out of the limelight. When asked for to speak about
his role in crafting environmental policy, he declined, saying he was a
policy person, not a press person.
“He is extremely talented and he probably knows as much as any three of us
put together,” said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, who chairs the
Senate Natural Resources Committee.
But, adds Kuehl, “one of the things about Kip is that he very very
assiduously understands the rule of staff. He doesn’t have a vote.”
For Lipper, that means shepherding environmental legislation, but always
leaving the credit for elected officials.
Lipper’s first legislative job was working in the district office of
then-Assemblyman Dennis Mangers, D-Huntington Beach, in the late 1970s,
trying to protect the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
“Lipper cut his environmental teeth on that issue,” said Mangers.
In 1980, Lipper moved to Sacramento to work for former Sen. Byron Sher,
D-Palo Alto, where he stayed until Sher was termed out of office in 2004.
During much of Sher’s two-decade tenure in the Legislature, Lipper served as
both Sher’s chief of staff and as chief consultant to the Natural Resources
Committee. From those dual posts, Lipper helped Sher craft many of the
state’s landmark pieces of environmental legislation.
Those included the California Clean Air Act, the California Safe Drinking
Water Act, the California Beverage Recycling Act and the Integrated Waste
In 2002, Lipper helped with legislation that requires energy companies
to produce 20 percent of electricity from renewable resources. And in 2003,
he helped Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, author a package of central valley
clean air legislation–while still on Sher’s staff.
Though he is currently a staffer for Senate leader Don Perata, leadership in
both legislative houses have sought Lipper’s advice in the recent round of
negotiations on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infrastructure bond package.
One senior Nu