As the February 22 deadline for introducing bills drew to a close, 2,375 bills and resolutions were introduced in the 2013-2014 California legislative session. After review, California Water Association’s Legislative Committee narrowed the list to approximately 70 bills that have interest to the industry.
The committee identified a number of water supply related bills to support. Among them was AB 1 (Alejo), which would appropriate $2 million to the State Water Resources Control Board for integrated watershed management planning in the Salinas Valley. A second Alejo bill, AB 21, which passed through the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, would impose an annual fee on Safe Drinking Water Small Community grantees. The funds would be then used for specific water projects in disadvantaged communities. And SB 429 (Hernandez) would extend the sunset of the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2030.
Several of the bills that CWA is supporting in 2013 resurrect legislation not enacted in previous sessions. Assemblymember Henry Perea’s AB 69 (previously AB 1669) would establish a Nitrate at Risk Area Fund to be used for disadvantaged communities reliant on nitrate-contaminated groundwater. Senator Ted Gaines’ SB 14 reintroduces SB 1063 and would allow recreational activities at Bear Lake Reservoir. Senator Lois Wolk’s SB 750 resurrects two previous session bills, AB 19 and AB 1975 that would require water meters or sub-meters for each dwelling unit of newly constructed multiunit residential structures.
CWA also supports AB 803 (Hueso), which eliminates barriers to the expanded use of recycled water, while protecting public health and safety, by changing Title 17 and Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations, which govern the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) drinking water regulations.
CWA supports SB 560 (Anderson), which would subject out-of-state businesses performing work or services related to a state disaster or emergency to state and local licensing or registration requirements or to register, file and remit state or local taxes and fees.
SUPPORT IF AMENDED
One of three water supply-related bills that CWA would support if amended is AB 115 (Perea), which would authorize the DPH to fund projects with loans and/or grants for consolidating water systems or extending services to consumers relying on private wells. The intent of the bill is to extend applicant eligibility to larger water suppliers that have the expertise to assist disadvantaged communities with contaminated drinking water sources. However, CWA’s proposed amendment would ensure that applicant eligibility for such loans and grants includes all public water systems.
CWA also supports AB 118 (Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials) if amended. The bill would allow the DPH to adopt interim regulations to implement provisions relating to the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund law and to meet Federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. The bill also would require the DPH to provide grants, instead of loans, to certain small water systems that serve disadvantaged communities and do not have the ability to repay DPH loans. CWA’s proposed amendment is similar to that in AB 115.
If amended, CWA also would support SB 772 (Emmerson). The bill is sponsored by Eastern Municipal Water District and addresses water systems that may not be properly licensed or regulated, such as one investor-owned system that has been operating without the oversight of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for many years. In its current form, SB 772 requires Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCOs) to identify such systems. CWA’s proposed amendments would ensure reciprocity on the information-sharing between the CPUC and the applicable LAFCO and that SB 772 conforms to a 2007 CPUC Resolution (M-4818), which spells out the coordinating procedures between regulated water utilities and LAFCOs.
OPPOSE UNLESS AMENDED
CWA opposes AB 145 (Perea), unless amended. The bill would transfer the state drinking water program and the Safe Drinking Water Fund from the DPH to the State Water Resources Control Board. Both the Association of California Water Agencies and the California Municipal Utilities Association oppose the bill. CWA’s Executive Director Jack Hawks testified on behalf of CWA at the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s informational hearing on March 25th, explaining that CWA’s amendments would recommend changes to the Health & Safety Code such that drinking water quality receives the same priority and attention as surface and groundwater quality in the state’s organizational framework for water quality regulation.
CPUC-RELATE D BILLS: SUPPORT
CWA is keeping close watch on several CPUC-related bills. Of special interest is SB 489 (Fuller), which CWA agreed to support after CWA’s proposed amendments were adopted. Current law authorizes the CPUC to petition a local superior court to appoint a receiver, but does not allow the CPUC to appoint one directly. Under SB 489, appointing a receiver would remain under the jurisdiction of the superior court; however, when there’s an immediate need to address customer service requirements, the CPUC would have the option of appointing an interim operator/manager of the troubled system. The intent of SB 489 is to enable the CPUC to abate any danger to public health and safety and provide adequate service to the customers, while protecting the system owner’s property and legal rights.
CWA is opposing AB 976 (Atkins), which proposes to grant the California Coastal Commission staff the authority to impose administrative civil penalties on coastal development permitees for alleged permit violations. CWA, among many other business and agricultural organizations that oppose the bill, drew legislators’ attention to many problems with the bill, including due process concerns, the fact that the Coastal Commission’s quasi-judicial procedures are not suitable for the required evidentiary process in a full judicial proceeding, and conflict of issues that create perverse incentives for staff.
CWA’s Legislative Committee and members will continue to monitor hearings and meet with new legislators and their staff, as well as administrative appointees and others whose policy initiatives may have an impact on CWA’s member companies and their customers.