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.
“Very few of the proposals we’ve seen offered in Sacramento are sensible at all,” McGavern said. “Most would make the situation worse, and make it harder to clean up the air, water, address climate change, and preserve natural resources and open space in California.”
However, Rothrock said legislation requiring more analysis of the economic costs and the underlying science of environmental regulations would help avoid the problems industries such as agriculture complain are killing business. Currently, regulations are reviewed by California’s Office of Administrative Law, which critics claim does an insufficient job of vetting regulations’ costs and underlying claims.
Like McGavern, Boren said she was also skeptical of many of the reform bills that have been backed by business interests.
“(In the environmental community) there’s a distrust of the business community, and if you look at some of these bills, you can see why,” she said. “There are many bills up there in the legislature that are about gutting environmental protections.”
But Boren said the problems faced by farmers –and by extension, other businesses regulated by the state’s environmental rules- are significant. She said Sustainable Conservation is a supporter of a piece of state legislation designed to reduce conflicts between environmental regulatory agencies, Assembly Bill 838, by Democrat state assemblyman Jerry Hill.
According to Boren, the state’s leaders and environmental advocates need to ensure California’s regulations not only promote the highest environmental standards, but also make sure that those regulations are effective, compliment each other and work well with businesses.
“I think if (policymakers and environmentalists) can come to understand the inefficiencies, or the fact that the way (regulations) are written now is not providing us the environmental quality we want, then you can get a broader stakeholder group,” she said. “It’s about trying to get regulations to work more effectively, both for businesses, and I think you could argue, if they work more effectively, you get better environmental outcomes.”