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Proposed California climate bill could set global example

Chris Megerian Los Angeles Times

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – When California Gov. Jerry Brown visits the Vatican this week for an international conference, he’ll be carrying a resolution from state lawmakers supporting Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on climate change.

He’s hoping the Legislature will send an even stronger message later this year by passing new environmental rules aimed at helping California slash greenhouse-gas emissions over the next few decades.

Approval of the legislation, intended to enact goals outlined by the governor this year, would bolster Brown’s calls for global action on climate change with a display of regulatory muscle in his own state.

Oil companies have ramped up opposition, and utilities are angling for changes in the bill that would make it easier for them to fulfill requirements to produce renewable energy. But so far, no one has been able to stop the legislation, which has passed the state Senate and is advancing in the Assembly.

Senate leader Kevin de Leon, a Democrat, one of the bill’s authors and its most high-profile champion in the Legislature, has been meeting individually with Assembly members to further secure their support.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said.

The proposal would increase the generation of electricity from renewable sources, boost energy efficiency in older buildings and reduce by half the amount of gasoline used on state roads.

The pope’s invitation to Brown for the Vatican conference is a sign that “the world is watching what happens in Sacramento very closely,” De Leon said, and he plans to ensure that the legislation reaches the governor’s desk.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, a Democrat, said there are still some kinks to work out in the proposal – she is one of several lawmakers to say the devil is in the details – but she expects it to move forward.

“It’s one of the most important things that we’re going to do this year,” Atkins said. “We see this as one of the big challenges on how California moves forward.”

Brown is one of dozens of officials from around the world who were invited to the Vatican conference, which will focus on climate change and modern slavery. The governor is scheduled to address the gathering Tuesday and Wednesday.

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