Caballero on SB1: Environmentalists can’t have it both ways

The California State Senate will soon consider sending Senate Bill 1, authored by Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D–San Diego), to Gov. Newsom for signature.

Senate Bill 1 is an effort to insure that the Trump administration does not frustrate California’s efforts to protect our environment and combat the fiscal impact of climate change through federal regulatory rollbacks.

In an effort to improve fisheries in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, SB 1 is flawed, as the bill rejects new science that would change how water supplies from the Central Valley are managed.

Central Valley water users, the federal government, environmental groups, and the state have been negotiating to reach mutually agreeable voluntary settlement agreements (VSAs) that would change how water is released into the Delta.

The VSAs would allow for environmental conservation and agriculture to rely on new sciences developed over the past 10 years to implement complementary integrated water and wildlife management strategies to the benefit of all water users.

The VSAs provide a pathway without litigation to improve the fisheries, while maintaining sufficient supplies to support the economies of the Central Valley and the state, which have ongoing urban and agricultural water needs.

This outcome is paramount for the Central Valley’s viability, for our rural, agriculture dominated way of life to continue.

Earlier this year, the Senate voted on and passed SB 307, which states water supply projects in sensitive desert areas must consider new science by having those projects reviewed by the State Lands Commission, even if a project has previously passed environmental reviews and appeals.

Environmental NGOs that lobbied for SB 307 were steadfast that without the consideration of new science, extreme harm would come to desert wildlife.

Yet, in SB1, these same groups resist amendments that would similarly allow for the consideration of new science in determining the best way to manage multiple beneficial users vying for California’s limited water supply.

Instead, they want to roll back the science to rely on one outdated version that calls for greatly increased surface water being diverted to the Delta.

This approach ignores new science that says new conservation methodologies can create habitat for fisheries along riverbanks, can improve water conditions for species health with sufficient flows for Delta fisheries, while still preserving California’s agriculture economy and our rural communities.

Without amendments to SB 1, I will be forced to vote “no”, and if the bill reaches Gov. Newsom, I will strongly encourage his veto.

Environmental groups cannot have it both ways and rely on new science when they like the outcome for bills like SB 307, but refute it when they don’t like the new results. This is the very tactic of science denial that SB 1 tries to address, with the irresponsible science denial that comes from the White House, today.

To do the same in California carries the stain of hypocrisy.

Sen. Anna Caballero wrote this column for The Modesto Bee. She is a Salinas Democrat whose district stretches into the Central Valley to include Merced County and part of Stanislaus County.