Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday declined to pick a fight with the Trump administration, announcing he’d veto a bill that would have preserved Obama-era environmental policies and negated the Republican’s regulations.
Newsom announced his opposition to Senate Bill 1 several hours after California lawmakers approved it early Saturday morning, closing a week in which the Trump administration rolled back a 2015 water pollution regulation that aimed to protect wetlands.
“I fully support the principles behind Senate Bill 1: to defeat efforts by the president and Congress to undermine vital federal protections that protect clean air, clean water and endangered species,” Newsom said in a written statement. “Senate Bill 1 does not, however, provide the state with any new authority to push back against the Trump administration’s environmental policies and it limits the state’s ability to rely upon the best available science to protect our environment.”
The changes would have restored many environmental and workplace safety regulations created by former President Barack Obama that President Donald Trump has weakened or repealed. It was targeted squarely at Trump, and had a clause that would cause it to expire the day he leaves office in 2025 if he wins a second term.
Newsom has been a vocal critic of the president’s environmental policies and has joined Attorney General Xavier Becerra in promoting many of the lawsuits the state has filed against Trump administration climate policies.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the state has filed more than two dozen climate lawsuits, according to Becerra’s office. The suits include efforts to preserve fossil-burning power plant restrictions, enforce fuel efficiency standards and defend the Clean Water Act.
SB 1 was a legislative attempt to preserve some of the same policies.
“I acknowledge that this is a big and important measure,” said bill author and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. “I think we are living in times that demand our urgent action to protect our state’s natural resources, our environment and worker safety.”
But ultimately the bill went too far for some top California Democrats, notably Newsom and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Powerful farm and water groups said the bill would threaten water-sharing agreements negotiated with Newsom’s team. Feinstein and California representatives signed a letter last week calling for Central Valley-friendly edits.
Atkins then relaxed some of the bill’s provisions to allow state agencies additional discretion over re-adopting the older regulations, but the bill still faced opposition ahead of its early Saturday morning vote.
The California Chamber of Commerce joined nearly 100 organizations in opposing the bill. The chamber said SB 1’s provisions “unnecessarily threaten water supply reliability for millions of Californians and threaten to exacerbate California’s housing crisis and disrupt agricultural operations throughout California,” according to the bill analysis.
During Saturday floor debates, both Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly and Senate spoke against the bill, with a handful of Central Valley lawmakers protesting provisions they said would hurt their immigrant and agricultural communities. Others accused Democrats of a thinly veiled attack against the president.
“This bill is being jammed upon us for some political statement. This is not responsible. This is not how water policy should be made in our state,” said Assemblyman Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield. “If this bill continues you’re jeopardizing the water stability for the entire state and the economic health and well being of all of us.”
Supporters said the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump has watered down protections that will protect future generations and California’s wildlife, and thus endanger the state’s natural resources and endangered species.
“The very reason this legislation is necessary is to protect our resources,” Atkins said before the Senate approved the measure on a 26-14 vote.
“Maybe there are political considerations by Democrats and Republicans who disagree,” she continued. “But these things have been debated for well over 40 years in terms of clean air, clean water, our natural resources, the Endangered Species Act. The point of this legislation its to keep those protections in place.”