California Passes Strong Renewables Standard
SACRAMENTO, California, September 16, 2002 (ENS) - California has passed a bill establishing a statewide renewable energy portfolio, and requiring electricity retailers to increase their use of renewable resources by at least one percent per year. By 2017, retailers must produce at least 20 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy.
Governor Gray Davis signed the legislation late last week along with a host of other environmental bills, saying they will help protect California's environment and quality of life.
"My administration has worked hard to provide a healthy future for California," Davis said. "These bills will build upon our state's rich tradition of environmental stewardship, protecting the energy we use, looking toward new energy resources and planning how we dispose of our hazardous waste."
At least two of the major utilities serving California customers - Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison - already come close to the requirements of the new law, producing 12 to 15 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources. But smaller utilities, which rely more heavily on traditional power sources, may have trouble meeting the 2017 deadline for the 20 percent renewable portfolio.
Davis also signed a companion bill by Senator Sher that reauthorizes state programs that promote renewable energy use and alternative energy research. SB 1038 authorizes the state Energy Commission to continue to administer the Public Interest Energy Research Program and the Renewable Energy Program for five additional years.
The bill also allows state energy regulators to set a benchmark for renewable energy prices, based on long term market forecasts. If renewable power prices rise above this benchmark, utilities may be able to use state subsidy funds to cover the difference between the benchmark and the actual prices.
Other bills signed by Governor Davis aim to protect California's environment from oil spills and hazardous wastes. The Oil Transfer and Transportation Emission and Risk Reduction Act (AB 2083) requires that companies which transport crude oil and petroleum products by tanker, between the San Francisco Bay area and the Los Angeles area, report specific oil and transportation information on a form to be developed by the State Lands Commission.
Collection of data regarding the shipment of California oil along the state's coast is considered crucial to determining the environmental impacts of the transportation, and to help prevent future spills.
SB 849 increases fees per barrel for vessels that transport crude oil in order to prevent oil spills. The new law increases the maximum oil spill prevention and administration fee from $0.04 to $0.05 per barrel of crude oil in 2003, and authorizes the Department of Fish and Game to charge non-tank vessels a fee for certifying financial responsibility for an oil spill.
Another bill signed by Davis is considered the final chapter on a proposed low level radioactive waste dump in Ward Valley, California. The dump site was proposed by a previous administration, and abandoned in 2000 due to environmental concerns, though lawsuits over the site continue.
The bill (AB 2214) prohibits the proposed Ward Valley radioactive waste disposal site from serving as the state's facility for purposes of the Southwestern Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact. Under that compact, California is required to build a disposal site for low level radioactive waste from commercial and research reactors, medical facilities and laboratories, produced in California, Arizona, North Dakota and South Dakota.
AB 2214 also prohibits a facility from disposing of low level radioactive waste using shallow land burial. The proposed Ward Valley project would have buried wastes in shallow, unlined trenches, which critics said could put groundwater supplies at risk of radioactive contamination.