A bad look for the Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom says he will veto SB1, which freezes CA environmental protections at the level they were at the end of the Obama administration. The water users have told him to, or they won’t be able to make any Voluntary Settlement Agreements with the Newsom administration.

This got me to thinking. What if Clinton’s victory had been honored? What if we were three years into the Clinton administration and presumably, she had never rolled back the Obama protections with some faked-up science that won’t survive a court challenge? Would the Voluntary Settlement Agreements be possible in those conditions? If not, are the VSA’s only possible when they occupy the space that Trump created? That is yet another indication that they are a real bad idea.

I am consistently baffled at why the Newsom administration wants these so bad, especially when they have a great default: the instream flows set by the SWRCB, finally exercising their authority. I consider it very rude to attribute thoughts to other parties, trying instead to refer to quotes. But I read through this panel discussion, with Crowfoot. Kightlinger and Pierre, and thought ‘right, right, administration, urban, ag… WHERE ARE THE ENVIROS?’ And my follow-up thought was, ‘oh crap. The administration thinks they don’t need the enviros because they think they ARE the enviros.’

My new concern is that the Newsom administration staff think THEY are the progressives and enviros, therefore they can both be the governmental brokers and represent the environmental movement. But they clearly cannot. They haven’t been in the field for long enough to realize that they are replaying old mistakes and re-running fucking CALFED. They are not holding both a strong environmental ethic and negotiating VSAs, and we can tell because they are now vetoing environmental legislation.

Frankly, the Newsom administration is two strikes down (Marcus, SB1) and have lost the benefit of the doubt.  They’re going to need a heavily enviro resilience portfolio if they want to be considered a good environmental administration. They cannot trust themselves to generate that enviro perspective; they should rely on the actual water enviros for that.



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17 responses to “A bad look for the Newsom Administration

  1. Just when Trump, Bernhardt and company leave no doubt that the plan is to EXHAUST every public resource in the nation, Newsom decides to sign off on the pillage. Sure looks like we’ve been had. Again.

  2. Dan

    You are spot on OTPR! I agree with most of your posts. After 35 years in the water biz it’s great to see an insider speak her mind. Keep it up!

  3. Noel Park

    I am a lifelong Democrat. If Gavin Newsome vetoes SB1, I will never vote for him for any office ever again.

    George Skeleton nailed it in his column today. My favorite quote, “… valley agriculture’s notion of ‘best available science’ is anything that would rationalize the pumping of more irrigation water from the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.”

    Shame on Gavin Newsome.

  4. scott g

    ‘oh crap. The administration thinks they don’t need the enviros because they think they ARE the enviros.’

    This is really not good.

  5. Jon Hoge

    I wonder if those in power are resistant to exerting unilateral authority now because they realize that the “enviros” don’t actually care about the environment but hijack it for their weird vindictive agendas. Or maybe the one party state finally wants to stop the bleeding because they realize that the real world result of their policies has been a perpetual increase in human misery (so much so 80 thousand people a year leave and never come back), horrible government services despite high taxes and ironically actual environmental degradation due to the homeless population which is a direct result of their “environmental” regulations (or their misuse by NIMBYS). To be honest, as someone who thinks scientific study proves our state government is the most inept, stupid and wasteful organization of its kind in the country (just look at our rankings on education, infrastructure and budget sustainability), I actually have hope things are changing a little, and maybe, finally, the people who have destroyed our government and immiserated the citizens have less influence.

    By the way, I know the real world doesn’t matter because it’s not really about improving the environment but remember we are now TEN YEARS into the biological opinions that curtailed pumping based on science. There has been no measurable improvement to fish populations. So maybe those in power finally have learned what science has been saying for a long time. There are multiple stressors to fish in the delta, there is no agreement on which stressor is causing the most decline and most likely changing only one (pumping) isn’t going to improve anything. Science probably also knows it’s not 1860 so the delta isn’t actually the delta anymore. So yeah there’s the fact this law is an idiotic virtue signaling waste of time too.

    • Noel Park

      Well, I guess that OTPR should be complimented that she has tweaked the Big Ag spin machine into action. Not for the first time.

    • Jon Hoge

      This is so weak. Why don’t you just explain all the effective policies you support instead of smear the messenger. It’s pretty obvious that small farmers like me, “big ag” and just general valley economic interests are completely aligned on water. Merely resorting to name calling sure reiterates that facts don’t matter to you and it’s not about improving the “environment”

    • Noel Park

      @ Jon Hope,

      When you make a statement in your first paragraph like “‘enviros’ don’t care about the environment but hijack it for their weird vindictive agendas”, your credits cast into the dirt and everything else you have to say becomes drivel.

      Your statement is a classic Orwellian “big lie”, worthy of Dr. Goebbels or Donald Trump.

  6. Steve Rothert

    This is a good blog. However, one important point needs clarification in my view. The author says, “I am consistently baffled at why the Newsom administration wants these so bad, especially when they have a great default: the instream flows set by the SWRCB, finally exercising their authority.” The Board exercising its authority is no simple matter, and thus not necessarily a “great default”. Water Quality Control Plans are not self-implementing. Requirements can only be implemented through a water rights proceeding, or voluntarily. I have heard folks casually suggest the Board could complete a water rights proceeding “in a few years”. That is delusional. It will take years for the WQCP to complete judicial review, and it’s only after that the water rights phase would start. In the upper Klamath River basin, it took 35 years to complete the adjudication for about 350 water rights. And it is now being litigated. The Bay Delta has more than 8,000 water rights, with billions of dollars involved. Others have said the Board could implement flow requirements through regulation. This is also unlikely to be a great option because the seniority system would make it devolve into an adjudication anyway. So, I urge people to consider that the “great default” is actually status quo conditions for fish for for many years.

    • Pablo Garza

      First: TO OTPR — this is the first time I’ve read your blog and I can tell I’m already hooked. Where have I been all of these years?

      Second: TO my colleague Steve Rothert — I have tremendous respect for you, but I disagree with the premise of your reply. To not entertain the “great default” option is really problematic. It pre-determines that anything else is better than that option (i.e., a weak voluntary agreement or “VA”). It seems to me that there is too much of this going around right now….

      Also, I don’t think you or I are the experts on what is involved in doing a water rights proceeding at this scale. I’m sure it’s not easy, but it seems far more preferable to a 15 year agreement that doesn’t provide enough water, habitat, or funding to reverse the decline of the Bay-Delta ecosystem. Put another way, I don’t see how 15 more years of decline is preferable to the “default” even if it is challenging.

      Finally, it may be cheesy and passe, but I still believe in public service and government. And, having interacted with several State Water Board staff through the VA process, I’m confident they are up to the task, no matter how challenging.

    • onthepublicrecord

      Hi Pablo. Thanks for joining us.

      I used to be funnier.

  7. Paul Helliker

    Steve – thanks for your refreshing candor.

  8. Paul Helliker

    Steve – sorry, the details box can be a challenge. I agree with you that the unimpaired flows approach proposed by the State Water Board has many problems (not the least of which is that it has not yet been analyzed with an accurate model), and that implementing that approach through the Water Quality Control Plan will likely lead to decades of litigation. So, it seems that one basic choice we all face is whether or not to try achieve agreement on a broad package of habitat improvements, temperature management and flow augmentations for the next 15 years (or starting whenever we can agree), or get bogged down in litigation for longer than that, and see little change from status quo in the interim. The former seems much preferable to me.

    • onthepublicrecord

      Then instead of hoping collaborative approaches will work this time, why not focus the full force of CA water policy/legislation on resolving the slow speed of litigations. Pass laws that make adjudication faster. Expand water courts. We haven’t tackled that aspect of the problem every decade of my adult life.

  9. criticalreader1

    How would the VAs prevent litigation by non-VA parties? There are likely thousands of water users that have never heard of the VAs and one can assume some of those users may not agree with the SWRCB flow requirements that would apply to them as non-VA parties. The relative contributions of these water users to any flow requirements would also need to be determined. So it appears the VAs might only avoid litigation by some parties, and a water rights proceeding would still be necessary.

  10. Noel Park

    Any “VSAs” to which the “water users” will agree will be too weak to solve the problems at hand. Half measures and massive spin will be the result.

    Gavin Newsome has sold out.