It is becoming an annual tradition: Every year we plead for a bill that would wean the state's utilities off dirty electricity generated from fossil fuels, a politically popular measure that nonetheless has hit a wall in Sacramento. Once again, a key renewable-power bill — a priority for environmental advocates and green businesses statewide — is making its way through legislative committees. Like the riots that follow Lakers championship victories or the ruinous wildfires that plague our hillsides every fall, the bill's yearly failure is a ritual we'd happily put to rest.
Since 2007, state Sen. Joe Simitian (D- Palo Alto) has been introducing bills aimed at requiring California to get 33% of its power from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020. In 2008 his bill got past the Senate, only to stall in the Assembly. Last year it passed both houses but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. On Thursday, a new version tailored to pass muster with the governor — who thought the 2009 bill imposed overly tight restrictions on the amount of renewable power that utilities could buy from out of state — was approved by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. But Schwarzenegger still isn't pleased; he issued a statement saying he couldn't sign Simitian's bill, SB 722, unless it streamlines the permitting process for generation projects and transmission lines.