Environmental Blueprint for California

How Governor Brown can ensure the State's environmental health and prosperity

January 11, 2011
Sean B. Hecht, Cara Horowitz, M. Rhead Enion

Governor Brown’s return to the Capitol comes at a critical moment in California’s history. The State’s long-term prosperity is vulnerable to climate change, energy insecurity, environmental threats to public health, and a growing scarcity of key resources.

The Governor has a tremendous opportunity to set our state on the right path and build on its past environmental successes. Environmental protection and fiscal prudence can be synergistic goals; California’s historic leadership in environmental protection has brought with it enormous benefits to our economy and public health. Only by continuing to lead will the State continue to reap these benefits.

Governor Brown must first strengthen California’s foundation for environmental protection, as described in Part I of our blueprint. Stable, robust funding for core environmental regulatory activities will set the tone for California’s future. A comprehensive, statewide system of environmental monitoring and modeling is needed, one that takes advantage of California’s technology expertise and long-range environmental vision. A renewed emphasis on enforcement of existing environmental laws will complement a comprehensive monitoring program. And the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) must be utilized effectively, by recognizing proper baselines for measuring environmental harms and thoroughly analyzing serious alternatives to environmentally harmful agency actions.

California’s foundation for environmental protection will be tested by climate and energy instability. Here, Governor Brown has already recognized, through his Clean Energy Plan, the need for renewable energy investment and the economic benefits of such investment. Part II of our blueprint explains how a combination of initiatives can promote renewable energy opportunities, emphasize energy efficiency, foster green, livable communities and make California more resilient to a changing climate. By ensuring climate and energy security, California will promote green jobs and green technology while building a new energy generation system that benefits generations to come.

In traditional areas of environmental regulation, many cost-effective initiatives are available to California that would benefit both the environment and the economy. California can charge polluters for the privilege of using its limited environmental resources and thereby impose market incentives to reduce pollution levels. Part III of our blueprint details specific actions that the Governor should support in the areas of water pollution, water supply, coastal resources, chemical risks, air quality, and biodiversity. By creating and maintaining a healthy environment for all Californians, the State can ensure a robust future for its residents and businesses.

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