Environmental 'Trump Insurance'


California's Central Valley Water Project. Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Senate leader Toni Atkins made SB 1 her signature legislation this year, with its  broad scope and serious implications. It would require that state agencies broadly adopt laws that existed at the end of the Obama administration as California’s minimum standards for the protection of air, water, endangered species and workplace safety. It’s a failsafe to protect the state should the Trump administration continue its environmental-deregulation agenda. At its core, however, the legislation is about water. 


Dozens of environmental and conservation groups have been pushing for the bill, portraying it as a bright line that shows who stands with California and its environmental goals, and who is in league with Donald Trump.


An equally broad group of business and commercial water interests, along with powerful  agricultural concerns, say the measure would thwart negotiations already underway to resolve longstanding disputes about water supplies from Northern California for farms and cities in the south.


The state is managing flows from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, to balance those draws against water quality and an adequate habitat for threatened and endangered fish species. The federal water project in the Central Valley may not adhere to the same rules if the Trump administration rolls back endangered-species protections.  


Caught between powerful interests and courting the conservative Central Valley (and SoCal cities that also rely on Delta water) Newsom tried and failed prior to the bill’s passage to remove the endangered-species provisions. Afterward, he signaled he’d veto the bill. On Sept. 27, 2019, he followed through, writing in a veto message: “I disagree about the efficacy and necessity of Senate Bill 1.” Environmentalists accused him of capitulation to Trump and Atkins tweeted her disappointment while farmers and Republicans cheered.