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A "Step in the Right Direction" -- PHI Statement on the Passage of SB 350

October 07, 2015

STATEMENT FROM DR. LINDA RUDOLPH, DIRECTOR OF PHI'S CENTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTH 

The Public Health Institute applauds California’s passage of SB 350, which will increase the state’s renewable electricity use to 50% and double energy efficiency in existing buildings by 2030—but regrets that the state failed to include a mandate to reduce petroleum use.

SB 350’s initial goal to curb petroleum use by 50% was achievable, and necessary. By bowing to pressure from the oil industry and removing this portion of the bill, California leaves its most vulnerable populations at higher risk of health problems.

California has five of the most ozone-polluted cities in the country, primarily due to vehicle tailpipe emissions. Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, birth defects and death. In economic terms, a 2008 study found that air pollution costs Californians $28 billion every year. In the San Joaquin Valley—home to three of the nation’s top five most polluted cities—air pollution costs each person roughly $1,600 per year, more than anywhere else in the state.

The oil industry wants us to think there is no rush to reduce our emissions. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are the highest they’ve been in at least 800,000 years, California is on fire, and our asthma rates are soaring.

California has already taken historic steps and is a global leader on climate action; SB 350 is one more step in the right direction. But we know now that in order to avoid a disastrous climate tipping point, and for California to continue setting a critical example for others to follow, we need to do more.