Good morning, California.

“PSA…Northern California friends… be sure to change the filters in your house now that the smoke has cleared. We changed ours today. The new one is on the left, and the old one (that we had just put in about 3 weeks ago) is on the right. YUCK!”—Sarah Jones Clark of Sacramento, sharing images on Facebook of her home’s air filter during the Camp Fire. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that photos of wildfire-blackened air filters have become a social media thing.  

Ambitious recommendations for Gov.-elect Newsom

Experts suggest Newsom make autonomous and fleet vehicles zero-emission.

Drought, wildfire and natural disaster are about to become a big part of life for Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who should focus on California’s shaky environment with a sense of urgency.

  • That’s the message from a high-powered group of environmentalists, industry representatives and academics who will release an 11-page set of recommendations today related to climate change, fire, water, transportation, housing and environmental restoration. Some seem simple. Others far less so. Some would require big changes in Californians’ lifestyles.

Among the advice from the experts:

  • Realign transportation, housing, and infrastructure funding to encourage people to get out of their cars, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce affordable housing.
  • Complete five major projects in the next five years, with attention to ensuring all Californians have clean drinking water.
  • Encourage local government to discourage development in areas prone to fire.
  • Consider mandating zero emissions on autonomous and fleet vehicles, and requiring them to be shared.
  • Assign a top-level aide to focus across departments to improve forest management and wildfire prevention.
  • Consider bonds or fees and changes in cap-and-trade allocations to fund the various efforts.

Don’t be surprised if this package becomes part of his policy agenda.

  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg helped organize the effort with the nonprofit Resources Legacy Fund and UC Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment.
  • And water experts included heavy hitters such as CALmatters commentator Ellen Hanak of PPIC and Wade Crowfoot, a likely Newsom appointee.

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Measuring wildfires' climate footprint

The 2017 La Tuna wildfire in Los Angeles.

California wildfires emitted 68 million tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide this year, roughly 15 percent of all carbon produced by the state’s cars, power plants and industry, reports the U.S. Geological Survey.

  • U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used the report to underscore his view that California must do a better job of managing its forests.

Zinke: “We know that wildfires can be deadly and cost billions of dollars, but this analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey also shows just how bad catastrophic fires are for the environment and for the public’s health.”

The California Air Resources Board, responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, had not taken wildfire emissions into account in the past. That will change.

  • Wildfire legislation passed earlier this year by state lawmakers includes requires regular reports starting in 2020 assessing greenhouse gas emissions from wildfire.

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It's time to make behavioral health solutions a top priority in California.


‘Trump insurance’ for the CA environment

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins addresses state lawmakers this week.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins pointedly put her imprimatur on far-reaching state environmental legislation that would serve as a hedge against any environmental roll-back by President Donald Trump.

  •  Atkins’ Senate Bill 1—the first bill of the 2019-20 legislative session—would bar the state and local governments from adopting any law that is less stringent than what the federal clean air, water and other environmental laws and regulations were prior to Trump taking office in January 2017.
  • Democrat Sen. Henry Stern of Canoga Park, a co-author whose house was destroyed in the Woolsey fire, cited the impact of climate change and called the bill “Trump insurance.”

Not that California legislators will roll back state environmental law in any significant way. And with Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives in January, Congress is not likely to weaken environmental law.

  • But beware the lame duck session: Trump could seek legislation or regulation that might attempt to preempt state law, particularly on water and endangered species. That’s where the hedge comes in.

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Destroying levees to avert floods

Ripening almonds in the Central Valley get flooded by irrigation water.

CALmatters contributor Alastair Bland details the latest step in a state overhaul of its approach to flood control: allowing rivers to be rivers, with an emphasis on reconnecting floodplains to natural waterways so they can absorb flood water.

Bland: “This shift in methodology marks a U-turn from past reliance on levees to protect cities and towns.”

Among the benefits of this back-to-the-future approach? Depleted aquifers get recharged, and fish and ducks love it.

Transition watch

Anthony Williams representing Boeing at a 2016 California Arts Council event.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has apparently tapped Anthony Williams, a top aide to four senate presidents pro tem, to be his legislative affairs secretary, multiple sources say.

  • Most recently, Williams has overseen lobbying and other government relations for Boeing Company in California. Boeing, which has moved much of its aerospace operations to Missouri, earlier this year was among the companies that had interest in a proposed tax break for more manufacturing.

Legislative affairs secretaries, the most important aides in any governor’s office, help shape legislation to a governor’s liking, and bury bills quietly so a governor need not veto them.

Former Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, who employed Williams: “He’s bright, personable and has the range of policy and legislative experience essential to that position. He offers a good bridge between the executive and legislative functions.”

Williams could not be reached. Newsom aides decline to comment.

Commentary at CALmatters

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The California Legislature reconvenes with stronger Democratic majorities that its leaders and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom hope to use for an expansionist agenda, leading off with a comprehensive array of early childhood education services.

Matt Vespa, Earthjustice’s Right to Zero Campaign: Southern California Gas Co.’s business model depends on selling natural gas. So while many California utilities have begun to plan for the state’s clean energy future, SoCalGas uses ratepayer money to help pay for its lobbying to undermine that future.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.