CA Senate Bill 49 Would Establish Obama-Era Federal Environmental Standards as Minimum Standards Under State Law

In response to the Trump Administration’s promised rollbacks of federal environmental regulations, California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De León and Senator Henry Stern have introduced Senate Bill 49 (“SB 49”), a sweeping attempt to prevent a reduction of environmental standards in California. A link to the current SB 49 can be found here. Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon’s press release can be found here.

SB 49 would adopt, at the state level, federal environmental standards existing as of January 1, 2017 (or January 1, 2016 if stricter) under the federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act. Specifically, SB 49 would prohibit state and local agencies from amending or revising their rules and regulations in a manner that makes state laws or standards less stringent than pre-2017 federal standards. To the extent that state air and water laws do not already codify pre-2017 federal standards, SB 49 would require state agencies to establish such standards. SB 49 would also require any species listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act to have the same listings under state law.

Additionally, the bill would create a right for private citizens to bring public interest lawsuits in response to violations of these standards, as well as authorize citizens to bring writ actions under Section 1085 or Section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure if state or local agencies fail to adopt and enforce SB 49’s environmental standards.

SB 49 altogether proposes a dramatic change in California’s environmental laws, and almost certainly will provoke debate.

The bill passed through the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on March 14 and is set for a hearing in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 5. We will continue to monitor SB 49 and provide updates as new developments occur.

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