By Matthew Fingerett
SB 1, a bill that had passed by the state senate and assembly in their most recent attempt to prevent the federal rollbacks of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).
The bill would have adopted the Clean Water Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and other regulations into California law without the changes made to the acts by the current administration.
Last month, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a press release in an attempt to explain the Trump administration’s alleged improvements to the ESA. “The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal—recovery of our rarest species” explained DOI Secretary David Bernhardt, former oil industry lobbyist with a history of suppressing science.
At the top of the Trump administration’s agenda is not to recover or protect any species, but to ravage public lands for fossil fuel extraction and corporate profit at their expense. The DOI and the Department of Commerce suggested one of the new provisions in the ESA that would allow for the consideration of economic consequences to take precedence over protecting the environment. The change limits the ability for climate crisis to be considered in determining what species make it on or off the endangered list, effectively gutting the ability to consider context beyond capital – morality be damned; the ecosystem that sustains both human and animal life be damned.
One of the champions of protecting capital above life is Richard Pombo, a mining and water management lobbyist who was formerly a California congressman. Richard Pombo has been an advocate for weakening the ESA for a long time and his desire is disappointingly becoming a reality. One of the more battled issues revolves around pumping more irrigation water from the vulnerable Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, host to endangered species like the chinook salmon and steelhead trout. Private interests have a history of extracting water from California – including during droughts – then commodifying it and selling it back to us in bottles.
Newsom has decided to side with corporate interests, mining and water management companies, David Bernhardt, Richard Pombo, and the Trump administration in his potential decision to veto a bill that was passed by the senate 26 to 14 and the assembly 43 to 21. Newsom said the bill “does not provide the state with any new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policy.”
Ultimately, the bill would have allowed California to have new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policy. The policies of SB 1 were aimed to protect our supply of natural resources, clean water, air, and endangered species that depend on them. Newsom claims to support the principles behind the bill, but the action of vetoing it is a more powerful indicator of where his loyalty lies than any words coming out of his mouth.
While the future is uncertain, an SB 1 coalition of environmental justice groups as well as individual activists remain committed to protecting our environment.