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December 31, 2003

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO - As of January 1 California’s environment is protected by a new three-bill package authored by Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). Simitian’s most recent environmental bill package covers a wide range of environmental issues - from forest protection and clean oceans, to ensuring public participation in the environmental review process.

From an environmental standpoint, “it’s been a good year,” Simitian said. “We made important headway in protecting our forests and watersheds from the impacts of logging and have strict, new prohibitions on dumping off California’s coast by cruise ships.”

AB 47 - Timber Harvest Plans

Simitian’s AB 47 requires loggers to provide maps that have detailed information about past, current and future timber cuts - information that is essential if environmental planners and the public are going to understand the impact these cuts are having on our ecosystems and watersheds.

Karen Douglas, General Counsel of the Planning and Conservation League, a sponsor of Simitian’s AB 47, called the information that Simitian’s bill requires “essential”. Paul Mason, State Forestry Representative for the Sierra Club, a cosponsor of the bill, described AB 47 as “an important step in protecting our watersheds.”

“The problem,” Simitian said, “is that timber interests have been playing hide-and-go-seek with environmental degradation. The new law simply requires logging interests to show us where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re headed. In this way,” said Simitian, “we can better understand and manage the cumulative adverse impacts of logging.”

All too often, timber harvest plans are analyzed in isolation, without accounting for other logging that is happening in the same watershed. The results can be significant and have adversely affected rural water quality and wildlife habitat in the past. AB 47 gives environmental review professionals the information they need to make better choices.

AB 121 Cruise Ship Dumping

Also going into effect January 1 is Simitian’s AB 121, which prohibits cruise ships from discharging sewage sludge and oily bilge into California waters and national marine sanctuaries along the state’s coast. Violators will pay $25,000 per violation for failure to comply. AB 121 makes California the first state in the nation to ban cruise ship dumping as a matter of state law.

“AB121 protects our economy, our environment, and our public health. Our coastal waters and marine sanctuaries are not a dumping ground,” Simitian said.

California’s cruise ship industry is the 2nd largest in the nation and expected to have grown by another 25% in 2003. “These are floating cities that can generate more than 200,000 gallons of sewage, 35,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water and 2,500 gallons of sludge in a one-week cruise. The figures are staggering,” Simitian concluded.

AB 1545 E-Comments

AB 1545, the final Simitian environmental bill taking effect on January 1, allows concerned individuals and advocacy groups to e-mail their comments on environmental documents, rather than requiring a “hard-copy” conventional letter of comment. The need for legislation came to Simitian’s attention when a constituent forwarded an e-mail response he had received from the Department of Forestry stating that it refused to accept e-mail comments.

“As a Silicon Valley legislator, I was particularly taken aback that a person sitting behind a desk in Sacramento would tell one of my constituents that the State would accept a type-written, hard-copy comment, but not that same comment sent via e-mail. This was particularly ironic when you understand that the EIR in question concerned a logging plan; presumably, there would be less need for logging if we all submitted our comments via e-mail,” Simitian said.

“2003 proved to be a good year for making progress on a wide range of environmental problems at the state-level,” summed up Simitian. “My hope and expectation is that we can carry that momentum into 2004,” he concluded. Simitian plans to move a companion bill to his AB 121 when the Legislature reconvenes later in January. This bill, AB 471, would improve air quality by restricting emissions made by cruise ships.