Jerry Brown at Griffith Observatory with the Los Angeles skyline barely visible through the smog. Photo from official video feed
Jerry Brown at Griffith Observatory with the Los Angeles skyline visible behind him. Photo from official video feed

On the terrace of Griffith Observatory with the Los Angeles skyline behind him, Gov. Jerry Brown signed much-debated legislation Wednesday mandating that half of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 .

“California has taken groundbreaking steps to increase the efficiency of our cars, buildings and appliances and provide ever more renewable energy,” Brown said. “With SB 350, we deepen our commitment.”

San Diego Gas & Electric issued a statement calling the new law “a significant achievement” to address climate change and said it was proud to be the first utility to support the bill.

The ambitious mandates of SB 350, championed by Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, were outlined by Brown in his inaugural address in January. But de Leon’s legislation was significantly watered down last month in the state Assembly, which stripped away a requirement that the state slash its gasoline use by 50 percent in the next 15 years.

That provision sparked heated debate in Sacramento, thanks to opposition from the oil industry and concerns from some Democrats who feared possible economic fallout from the move.

Despite the loss of the gasoline provision, de Leon said the legislation still includes steps that “build on California’s historic commitment to lead the world in the fight against climate change and build a healthy and livable planet for our children and grandchildren.”

At Wednesday’s ceremony, de Leon gestured at the sweeping view of Los Angeles behind him, saying there was a time when all you could see was smog.

“It made your eyes burn, your throat sting and most of all, the sight made your heart ache,” he said. “Because we believed that air pollution was the cost of doing business — that environmental health and economic growth were mutually exclusive. Today we are proving otherwise. Thanks to our commitment to clean air, we can see the Los Angeles skyline clearly. And we can see the stars in our sky.”

Even with the elimination of the gasoline provision, the legislation was still met with opposition by Republicans, who said the measure will damage the state’s economy.

“This law should be called the California Economic Cooling Act, because SB 350 puts California’s economic recovery on ice,” Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said. “By almost every measure, California is already the most expensive state in which to build a business and raise a family. SB 350 is projected to double California’s electricity costs, which are already among the nation’s highest.

“What business wants to come to California, where we’re making it economically impossible to survive?” he asked. “While California’s lawmakers are trying to save the world, they’re simultaneously bringing extinction to California’s economic competitiveness.”

City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.