Political Watch: September 14, 2023

• U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) introduced two bipartisan bills aimed at helping the Central Coast curb the threat of forever chemicals in communities near regional airports, according to a Sept. 8 statement from the congressman’s office. Carbajal’s Clean Airport Agenda, which he unveiled at San Luis Obispo Regional Airport on Sept. 7, includes two new pieces of legislation that aim to help airports transition away from PFAS foams, enlist the federal government to help with that transition, and ensure federal agencies are keeping up with plans to phase out these toxic tools. “Access to clean drinking water is paramount to protecting the health of our communities. But federally required foams used at our airports have been found to contain chemicals that pose a grave threat to our drinking water and public health,” Carbajal said in the statement. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation that enlists federal agencies, the same ones that oversee sites like San Luis Obispo that are already fighting contamination, to help our airports clean up this public health threat, as well as hold them accountable for their plan to phase out these chemicals for good.” Some fire suppression foams used at airports contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) which have been linked to health hazards including cancer and developmental harm. PFAS are classified as “forever chemicals,” meaning they do not naturally degrade, and pose an escalated risk for buildup if leaked into the groundwater of nearby communities, as it has been found in San Luis Obispo and other California communities.

• U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) introduced the Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience act to establish a permanent Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience within the Economic Development Administration (EDA), according to a Sept. 11 statement from Padilla’s office. Although the EDA has a long history of supporting disaster recovery and resilience efforts, there is no dedicated bureau or office to direct and implement the economic recovery support function activities of the agency. The legislation would formally create an EDA Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience, which could expedite deployment of resources and improve service delivery to communities. “Economic recovery and revitalization are crucial elements of post-disaster assistance,” Padilla said in the statement. “Even with federal assistance to rebuild damaged roads, bridges, and homes, communities can remain impacted for decades after a natural disaster. As extreme weather events become more frequent across the country, disaster recovery activities are increasingly critical to EDA’s mission of promoting more resilient economies. We must formalize EDA’s role in post-disaster assistance to better help communities prepare for, mitigate, and recover from the negative economic impacts of natural disasters.”

• Taking on the misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act to obstruct housing projects, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a measure to facilitate the development of much needed affordable housing at universities, according to a Sept. 7 statement from the governor’s office. “California will not allow NIMBYism to take hold, blocking critically needed housing for years and even decades. I thank Assemblymember Wicks and all the legislative leaders for taking on the status quo and clearing the way for our state to build more affordable housing,” Newsom said in the statement.” AB 1307 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) was passed unanimously in response to a court decision to block a new affordable housing development at UC Berkeley. The governor and Legislature supported the bill with $100 million investment in the 2022-23 budget. Under this new law, residential noise will not be considered a significant environmental impact under CEQA. In addition, the bill eliminates the requirement that public universities consider alternatives to the location of housing projects when specified requirements are met.

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