An ambitious environmental bill in California that attempted to legislate up to a 50% reduction in gasoline use by 2030 had been derailed by the oil industry in the final week of the legislative session, The Guardian reports.
Senate president pro tempore Kevin de Leon announced on Wednesday that he would amend the bill, SB350, to drop the petroleum provisions. It will be changed in the assembly’s natural resources committee as soon as Thursday to deal only with increasing the state’s renewable electricity supply and boosting energy efficiency in buildings through retrofits and upgrades.
With only two days left in the legislative session, “we could not cut through the million-dollar smokescreen created by a single special-interest with a singular motive and a bottomless war chest”, he said in a statement. The Western States Petroleum Association – a trade organization representing petroleum companies including Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil, said in a statement that the fuel provisions were “arbitrary and infeasible”, but with that portion of the bill deleted, “we can move forward and work together on other climate change efforts”.
SB350 has been the focus of an intense media and lobbying campaign by petroleum interests in recent weeks. Oil industry groups took out full-page newspaper ads as well as television and radio spots warning that the bill would lead to gas rationing, restrictions on driving and government monitoring of driving habits via vehicle computers.
In the legislature, the oil industry targeted moderate Democrats, lobbying them to question if the measures provided proper oversight, would negatively impact business in California or unfairly targeted a single industry. Senator De Leon, along with allies, staged their own effort, calling in Catholic leaders, Nobel prize winners, celebrities and average citizens to testify to media and lawmakers about the statewide and even global importance of the measure. But the swing votes within their own party remained unconvinced.
The defeat is also a setback for Governor Jerry Brown, who initiated the environmental focus of this legislative season during his inaugural address for his fourth and final term. Both he and De Leon are planning on attending the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December.