Agriculture

Hotly-contested Senate Bill 1 could carry over water battle into 2020

One day after a handful of amendments to the California legislature’s marquee water bill were released, signs are emerging that the bill may be punted into the next legislative year.

Senate Bill 1, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D–San Diego), would tie California’s environmental standards to Federal regulations on the books on the final day of the Obama administration.

In the past week, Senate Bill 1 has attracted opposition from prominent California Democrats in Washington, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein and four Congressmen, and Central Valley Democratic legislators.

Tuesday’s amendments to the bill did little to quell opposition, as it still leaves the state vulnerable to lengthy legal challenges over its ability to dictate environmental standards to the Bureau of Reclamation over its management of the federal Central Valley Project.

During a press gaggle on Wednesday, Atkins indicated it was possible the bill could be converted to a two-year bill. That move would kill the bill for the remainder of the legislative session, which concludes on Friday.

“We haven’t made that decision. You know how it goes,” Atkins said. “We get to the last few days. We’re still in serious discussion. We are still having conversations with [Gov. Gavin Newsom’s] office on this very issue.”

That move would also make Senate Bill 1 available for consideration next year.

Opponents of Senate Bill 1 argue the current bill restricts scientific advancements in analyzing California’s water needs and air quality conditions by relying on outdated science.

Proponents have advanced the initiative as part of a push to counteract a wave of changes to Federal biological assessments and opinions that govern water delivery and air quality by the Trump administration.

The measure even includes a Jan. 20, 2025 expiration when President Donald Trump would leave office if he were re-elected in 2020.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.