In summary

California gets a mixed emissions report, prepares to battle Trump administration over endangered species, immigration, warning labels

Good morning, California.

“I mourn the loss of one of our own, CHP Officer Andre Moye, who was killed during a shootout following a traffic stop.” California Highway Patrol Commissioner Warren Stanley, after Officer Moye was killed and two other CHP officers were injured in a gun battle that started early Monday evening on I-215 in Riverside.

The Riverside Press Enterprise report is here. The L.A. Times report is here.

A mixed emissions report

The 2013 Rim Fire remains, as seen in May 2019 from Evergreen Lodge near Hetch Hetchy.

Gov. Gavin Newsom lauded latest numbers showing that California is cutting greenhouse gas emissions, saying data show “smart climate policies are good for our economy and good for the planet.”

For the first time, in 2017, more electricity—52%—came from solar, wind, hydro power and nukes, which generate no greenhouse gases, than from fossil fuel, the California Air Resources Board says in its latest assessment.

  • Solar and wind power made up 22% of the in-state generation in 2017.

Good news: California reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 5 million tons in 2017. 

Not such good news: Californians need to reduce emissions by about 16 million tons a year to hit the goal of having greenhouse gas emissions fall to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

  • Transportation—including cars, trucks, trains, planes and boats— is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, at 40%, rising in 2017, albeit at a slower pace than in some past years.
  • Recycling and waste emissions have grown by 20% since 2000.
  • Livestock emissions were 16% higher in 2017 than in 2000.

Noteworthy omission: California Air Resources Board numbers fail to take into account a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in 2017: wildfires. 

P.S.: The U.S. Forest Service estimates the 2013 Rim Fire outside Yosemite spewed as much carbon dioxide emissions as 3 million cars, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reported in 2017.

When $25 million isn’t enough

Non-recyclable plastic and other material in San Jose

An Ontario company received nearly $25 million in payments from California in 2018, only to cite insufficient state payments when it announced that it was shuttering its 284 recycling facilities and laying off 750 workers earlier this month.

Until its abrupt closure, rePlanet, LLC, was by far the largest collector of used bottles and cans located at grocery stores across the state. 

RePlanet’s closure underscored—and exacerbated—California’s recycling crisis, a pillar of the state’s environmental agenda. The company cited insufficient state payments when it announced its 284 recycling centers would end operations.

The company wouldn’t discuss the amounts it received. Nor would the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, also known as CalRecycle.

CalRecycle spokesman Lance Klug said the 1980s law that created the recycling program exempts from public disclosure details about payments. The money comes from the 5-cent recycling charges levied on consumers for bottles and cans.

CalMatters obtained an internal document detailing the payments to rePlanet. To read the full story, please click here.

To read CalMatters reporter Rachel Becker’s series on the recycling crisis, please click here.

CSU’s $1.5 billion

Timothy P. White, chancellor of the California State University System.

California State University Chancellor Tim White promised Monday that he’ll share more information about CSU finances even as he criticized as “sensationalized” an audit that found the university squirreled away $1.5 billion.

White told a joint legislative audit committee he will follow the audit’s recommendations but said:

  • “The CSU did not and does not hide money.”
  • In June, State Auditor Elaine Howle said CSU failed to disclose the $1.5 billion during budget talks.
  • CSU officials say the money was earmarked for capital projects, to pay short-term debts, and for a rainy day.

Howle told legislators she found no evidence that CSU broke any laws. But she said student leaders were unaware that the surplus grew by $65 million in 2017 when the university hiked tuition.

CSU’s employee union members packed the hearing room. Staff weathered cutbacks during the recession and sought the audit.

The Kamala Harris we know

Harris began her presidential campaign a mile from her birthplace.

What most Americans are still just beginning to learn about our state’s junior senator, we Californians have known for years: she’s smart, eloquent, and, at times, careful. 

In a candidate primer, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher recaps Harris’ resume in California and what it tells us about her run for president. 

A few details: 

  • Harris based her first campaign for San Francisco’s District Attorney in the working-class Bayview district, but much of the financial power behind her came from high society with her first contribution coming from Elaine McKeon, chair of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
  • Liberal criminal justice advocates cite prosecutorial overreach. But deputies attorney general act without the express approval of the elected Attorney General. 
  • Supporters call her pragmatic. Critics say she waffles. That might be two sides of the same coin.

For a smart look at how Harris is faring in Iowa, check out Politico Christopher Cadelago piece by clicking here.

  • Long story short: “Overwhelmingly, Harris seems, in mid-August, the candidate Iowans most want to like. … Biden still needs to fade if Harris is going to win the Iowa caucuses—though her campaign isn’t yet setting expectations that high.”

Trump policy will hit immigrants

President Donald Trump.

President Donald Trump is making it harder for legal immigrants to get green cards if they depend upon—or are likely to use—social safety net programs such as food stamps.

CalMatters reporters Jackie Botts and Ben Christopher note that the policy announced Monday would hit hard in California, home to huge numbers of immigrants. Not surprisingly, it is being met with scorn.

  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “We will not stand idly by while this Administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon. We are ready to take legal action to protect the rights of all Californians.” 

The rule change has been in the works for year. And it seems to have had a chilling effect on immigrants who might otherwise make use of social safety net programs. 

EPA moves to block California law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to block California from enforcing a voter-approved law requiring warning labels on products that cause cancer—specifically glyphosate, a chemical in the common weed killer Roundup, the Associated Press reports.

Remind me: Proposition 65, passed by voters in 1986, requires California place warnings on chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or to be reproductive toxicants.

California concluded in 2015 glyphosate in Roundup probably causes cancer. It based the conclusion on findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization.

Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, sued, and a federal court blocked the state from adding the label. Bayer since has bought Monsanto.

  • Now, U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is stepping in on Bayer’s side, saying: “We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.”

Money matters: Bayer has spent $5.1 million lobbying in Washington, D.C., so far in 2019, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports.

Meanwhile: California is preparing to sue the Trump administration again, this time over its effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

  • Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “We’ll tackle this in the courts. We’ll tackle this in the Legislature. We’ll do everything we can to make sure we don’t backslide the way this administration is trying to take us.”

Commentary at CalMatters

Mike Madrid, former political director of the California Republican Party: In El Paso, Americans clearly saw what Latinos have been saying about what is happening to us in this country. Too many in the United States do not want our “kind” here. The silence from far too many is deafening.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California is spending billions to close the achievement gap in the state’s K-12 schools but we don’t know whether it is having the promised impact.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.

Barbara is a master's student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where she studies new media. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from Sacramento State, where she served as editor...