Gatto’s Fuel and Permitting Bills Making Their Way

By On April 18, 2012

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s Green Fuels Bill Passes Key Hurdle

Assembly Bill 1900, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), a bill that would change the state’s rules on Renewable Natural Gas, passed the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce on Monday by a vote of 11-1.  The bill would change the rules for Renewable Natural Gas (also known as biomethane), a natural, renewable-energy source fuel.  Current rules have been described by many as bizarre or simply counter-productive.

Current California law forces many producers of biomethane to burn it or let it escape in the atmosphere (which, of course, pollutes).  However, those same laws allow California utilities to purchase the exact same product, as long as the producers are located outside California.  Biomethane is a naturally generated fuel, produced by things like livestock, and the decomposition of organic matter in landfills.  The law prohibits landfill gas from being injected into the pipelines that carry natural gas across the state, and imposes such strict testing requirements on other forms of biomethane that it effectively prohibits them as well.

“A responsible society uses all energy sources at its disposal,” said Assemblyman Gatto.  “Californians certainly understand the importance of recycling.  What could be more in the spirit of recycling than putting to good use a biological product that is generated naturally?  We currently produce about one-third of our electricity by burning natural gas.  There is great potential to substitute a fossil fuel with biomethane instead.”

Under AB 1900, California would reap economic benefits as well.  Although most California producers are currently prohibited from selling biomethane in California, utilities are allowed to purchase it from out of state to comply with environmental mandates.  AB 1900 would set up a new system within California to foster local industry and local jobs.  Said Gatto, “This bill would allow California producers of biomethane, whether big landfills or small farmers, to sell it to utilities in the state, as long as it is demonstrably clean, pure, and safe.  Rather than creating jobs outside of the state, we should help local industry.”

“We can produce renewable power in our state, from sources that occur naturally,” continued Gatto, “Passing AB 1900 will put Californians to work, clean our air, and keep utility bills low. By working to promote all sources of renewable energy instead of pitting them against each other, it is my great hope that we may allow them to exceed the renewable goals for our state.”

Bill to Streamline Permitting Clears Second Hurdle

AB 1549, which would greatly help businesses cut through permitting red tape, has passed its second policy committee by a vote of 8-1.  The bill significantly streamlines the permitting process by requiring: (1) quicker deadlines on most permitting decisions; (2) that government entities provide a clear list – upfront – of all permits that a project needs; and (3) that government entities appoint one point of contact who can oversee a project and keep the various inspectors and permitting agencies moving.

“The permitting process is often frustrating, overly complicated, and time-consuming,” said Gatto.  “In the business world, time is money.  This bill would help California businesses save money because it would save them time.”

With strong bipartisan support, AB 1549 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee before going to the Assembly Floor for a full vote of the chamber.

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