October 13, 2011

California Gov. Brown signs renewable energy bill

Yolo County Senator Lois Wolk scored a win and a loss when Gov. Jerry Brown signed off on legislation to increase access to renewable energy, but vetoed a bill that would have restricted tax breaks and overhauled the state's budgeting system.

Wolk's Senate Bill SB 489, also known as The Renewable Energy Equity Act, aims to provide equity in the state's renewable policy by removing unnecessary barriers to small-scale renewable energy projects. The new law will enable all eligible renewable energy types, including biomass and biogas, to utilize California's Net Energy Metering program, which allows customers to offset some of their power usage with the energy they generate on site.

"California farmers lead the country in producing on-farm renewable energy," said Jeanne Merrill, policy director for the California Climate and Agriculture Network, the bill's sponsor. "The Renewable Energy Equity Act now makes it easier for farmers and food processors to develop more renewable energy projects and get credit for moving California away from fossil fuels."

Brown also signed Wolk's SB 618, which encourages development of new solar facilities on lands that are less suited for agricultural use or have lower habitat value by making these lands eligible to have their Williamson Act contract rescinded for a reduced fee, and be simultaneously placed in a protective Solar-Use easement with similar tax benefits.

Meanwhile, Brown vetoed Wolk's SB 508, which would have required corporate and individual tax breaks enacted after Jan. 1 to automatically end in 10 years.

The bill had been assailed by business groups as a limitation on job-creating tax incentives. Legislative Democrats sought the automatic sunset, in part, because it would have changed what they consider a key procedural dynamic: tax cuts can be approved by the Legislature with a majority vote, but require a two-thirds vote to end because that action is considered a tax increase.

Brown vetoed another Wolk bill, Senate Bill 14, that would have required the state to begin "performance-based budgeting," forcing each state department to provide lawmakers its goals, targeted outcomes and performance data.

The bill passed the Legislature unanimously and was pushed by good government, labor and business groups.


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