What is in this article?:
- Unsustainable: The problem with Californiaâ€™s green regulations
- Growing chorus of critics
- Conflicts, errors and controversy
- Diesel emissions
- Questioning the air board
- Strict emissions guidelines
- Recycling contamination?
- Riparian buffers
- Infeasible standards
- A heavy cost to agriculture
- The roots of the problem
- Insufficient evaluation of regulations
- Moving forward
- Sensible proposals?
- In December 2010, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture released a report, “California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability,” detailing ways the state could improve agricultural policies. Not surprising, it advocated more “green” practices be adopted. But one part of the report wasn’t so predictable - a section criticizing California regulations, including environmental rules, as often “duplicative,” “conflicting,” “uncoordinated,” and “needlessly burdensome.”
Ron Koetsier, a dairyman in Tulare County, Calif., had to shut down his methane digester in 2008 because the local air district passed a rule requiring expensive modifications to the machine’s generators, which produce electricity by burning methane gas produced by cow manure.
For her part, Boren said she’s working to encourage action be taken to remedy the problems with environmental rules identified in the food and agriculture board report. That requires building a coalition of stakeholders – in addition to getting agricultural businesses onboard, Boren said she is working to convince other environmental groups that there is a real need to address problems with state regulations.
“If you’re an environmental advocate who feels very strongly about protecting air quality and water quality, you want to see strong environmental laws,” she said. “But if you’re not actually working in those businesses that are having to operate day-to-day and understanding what the impact is, you don’t understand why there would be a need to modify or tweak them to make them more effective.”
Some reforms may result from the work being done by groups such as Sustainable Conservation, the California State Board of Food and Agriculture and the California Roundtable for Ag and the Environment. The Little Hoover Commission report may also help guide policymakers in addressing problems with the state’s regulations.
Reform could also come from the legislative efforts being backed by private interests. Business lobbyists such as Rothrock with the California Manufacturers and Technology Association are seeking to address businesses’ complaints about regulatory hurdles – California was voted the least business-friendly state in the nation by CEO Magazine last year – and claim that a more lenient regulatory environment will help turn around the state’s economy.
Business advocates are now two years into their campaign to lighten the regulatory load in California. Despite the death and postponement of a number of the bills supported by the coalition, Rothrock is optimistic the poor economy is tilting the political climate in Sacramento in industry lobbyists’ favor.
“When everyone is doing well, you manage these new costly regulations … When it gets problematic, people say, ‘Geez, I can’t stay in business anymore,’” Rothrock said. “These things will cause legislators to want to act.”
This year saw more politicians emphasize the need for regulatory reform, she said.
“Legislators are putting this in their campaigns more than in the past,” she said. “This year we saw those regulatory reform proposals in the budget discussion.”
That occurred when Gov. Jerry Brown considered offering support for regulatory reforms advocated by Republicans in exchange for votes for his budget proposal, which ended with the budget passing in late June without Republican support.
McGavern criticized regulatory reform bills backed by business interests as assaults on the state’s regulatory processes that were designed to undercut environmental goals. He said he’d written California legislators earlier this year, urging them to vote the prospective laws down. Many of the proposed reforms would have enacted various new requirements that would have to be met before new rules could be approved, such as mandating agencies consider alternative proposals by industry, or engage in extensive reviews of every policy passed.