State of California

California has always jumped at being first when it comes to environmental reform.  Not only are Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and local governments in California looking toward the State for leadership and resources to address climate change, but many other states, regions, local governments, and the federal government are watching our every move as we navigate through implementation of how to address travel behavior in California.  If we fail here, we set a precedent for inaction among other states and the federal government, and for ourselves.

The direction that federal climate and transportation legislation and agency actions are heading has a spectrum of implications for California.  At the optimistic end of the spectrum, federal actions will likely provide additional funding sources to support the development of California Senate Bill 375’s required Sustainable Communities Strategies and “low carbon transportation projects.”  At the other end, California may continue with the AB 32, SB 375, and SB 391 processes lacking the necessary funding mechanisms to make regional visions a reality.  However, if the Senate climate bill does not pass it may be an excellent opportunity for the State of California to be forced into making creative and long-lasting changes in its funding structures and the land use/transportation and environmental processes that thread through the State’s transportation revenue system.  In any case, California needs to take action in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the same level of importance that was executed during the Clean Air Act in the 1970s, and regional/local governments need both financial and technical support to make substantive changes in land use planning today so that the compounding effects of GHG reduction can be realized for the State’s 2050 GHG goals.

In the past few years, California has passed several key laws and regulations that have built upon the existing regulatory authorities at the state, regional and local levels in regards to transportation and land use planning, environmental review process, and funding structures.  This section from Lauren Michele’s recent MS Thesis Publication outlines the agencies and departments responsible for implementation of recent state laws and guidelines, and long-standing policies and funding streams.  Analysis of the implications of these existing regulatory frameworks are presented throughout Chapter 3 of the report: “Rethinking California’s Planning Frameworks to Support Senate Bill 375: A White Paper on Local, Regional, State and Federal Climate Change Policy Reform

California Laws and Regulations

  • Assembly Bill 1493 – Pavley, Chapter 200, Statutes of 2002: Signed in 2002, Pavley required a 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2016 and became the first vehicle GHG legislation in the United States.
  • Assembly Bill 857 – Signed into law September of 2002, AB 857 establishes State priorities promoting equity, a strong economy, environmental protection, health and safety in urban, suburban and rural communities.  Requires all State agencies to specify how infrastructure expenditures are consistent with infill development and redevelopment, cultural and historic resources, environmental and agricultural resources, and efficient development patterns.
  • Executive Order S-3-05 – California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order in 2005 to establish a goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Assembly Bill 32 – Global Warming Solutions Act: Passed in 2006, AB 32 calls for a reduction in GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.  Under AB 32, the State established a Climate Action Team (CAT) to guide the development of the Climate Change Scoping Plan. The CAT included subgroups such as the Land Use Subgroup of the Climate Action Team (LUSCAT).  The California Air Resources Board is responsible for overseeing the implementation of AB 32.
  • “Low Carbon Fuel Standard” – Regulation in 2007 requiring oil companies to reduce the life-cycle GHG emissions from transportation fuels 10 percent by 2020.
  • Senate Bill 97 – California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines: In 2007, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the Natural Resources Agency were tasked with updating the CEQA Guidelines to provide assistance to public agencies regarding the analysis and mitigation of the effects of GHG emissions in CEQA documents.
  • Senate Bill 375 Passed in September 2008, SB 375 requires GHG targets to be set and Sustainable Communities Strategies to be developed through Metropolitan Planning Organizations’ Regional Transportation Plans under an integrated land use and transportation planning framework.
  • Senate Bill 732 Strategic Growth Council: Signed into law September 2008, the Strategic Growth Council will assist state and local entities in the planning of sustainable communities and meeting AB 32 climate change goals.  The Council represents the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research; Natural Resources Agency; California Environmental Protection Agency; California Business, Transportation and Housing; and the California Health and Human Services.
  • Assembly Bill 842 – Signed September 2008, AB 842 requires the Department of Housing and Community Development, when ranking applications for funding under the Infill Incentive Grant Program and the Transit Oriented Development Implementation Program, to award preference or priority to projects located in areas where the local or regional entity has adopted a general plan, transportation plan, or regional blueprint that will reduce the growth of VMT by at least 10 percent, and the project must also be consistent with that planning document.  
  • Senate Bill 391 – Passed in 2009, SB 391 requires Caltrans to update the California Transportation Plan (CTP) to address how the State will achieve “maximum feasible emissions reductions” consistent with AB 32 and Executive Order S-3-05. The first update of the CTP must be completed by December 31, 2015 and updated every five years thereafter.