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Hearing planned on underground gas tank leaks

An East Bay lawmaker will chair a hearing Wednesday in San Jose on progress toward cleaning up thousands of leaking underground tanks that pose environmental threats.

The Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee’s hearing will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Isaac Newton Senter Auditorium in the Santa Clara County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St.

“Cleaning up leaking gas station tanks and restoring abandoned sites is critical to our local economies and environmental safety,” committee chairman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a news release. “We passed some important measures last year to fund clean-up efforts and this hearing will help us better address the challenges and impediments to restoring these sites in a timely way.”

The committee will hear testimony from the State Water Resources Control Board; an official from Robinson Oil (Rotten Robbie); environmental clean-up firms; Santa Clara, Alameda, Calaveras and Merced county environmental health officials; and the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, among others.

Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed a pair of related bills authored by Wieckowski and Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita. Wieckowski’s AB 291 extended for two more years a temporary petroleum storage fee that owners of underground storage tanks must pay; the fee currently generates about $270 million per year, used to reimburse underground tank owners who clean up leaks. Smyth’s AB 358 reformed the reporting and review process for such clean-ups.

Posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Environment | No Comments »

Lawmakers hold hearing on clean energy economy

Two Assembly members from the East Bay co-chaired a hearing today on keeping California at the forefront of the world’s clean-energy sector.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, co-chair the Assembly Select Committee on California’s Clean Energy Economy, and convened the hearing this morning at the State Capitol.

“We have a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit in this state that is in sync with Californians’ desire to produce clean energy, create jobs and improve our environment,” Wieckowski said in a news release issued later today. “We have the venture capital, the innovation ecosystem and a sound clean energy policy framework. We need to do a better job at coordinating services and incentives, and make sure we continue with the policies that have helped spark the industry.”

Panelists included F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10; Rana Mookherjee, senior director of project finance at Fremont-based Solaria Corp.; Alissa Peterson, director of product marketing and business development at Hayward-based Primus Power; Mickey Oros, senior vice president for business development at Folsom-based Altergy Systems; Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Investors; and Henry Yin, founder and president of USA-China Link.

Panelists discussed the state’s access to venture capital, its research and development capabilities and its clean energy incentives as reasons why so many clean tech companies start here. But federal clean energy subsidies are inadequate and temporary, and with increasing competition from other states and nations, California’s future isn’t assured.

“We have some competitive advantages that other states do not, but what the private sector is telling us is we need to be smart about which incentives we use and how we package them so our companies will want to keep more manufacturing here in California,” Wieckowski said.

Posted on Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, economy, energy, Environment, Nancy Skinner | 1 Comment »

Lawmakers: Gov’t didn’t do enough for Solyndra

At least two local lawmakers say the layoff of 1,100 workers and bankruptcy of Fremont-based Solyndra – a solar cell manufacturing company held up as a paragon of California’s burgeoning green economy by politicians such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama – is because government hasn’t done enough.

Per our story, Solyndra had landed $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as $1.1 billion in private venture capital.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said he’s saddened by Solyndra’s news and his thoughts are with the workers who’ll lose their jobs, but the company’s struggle “is one shared by other American manufacturers attempting to scale-up operations in a very competitive global economy.

“Although there has been criticism of the amount of public funding received by the company, we must recognize that our fiercest foreign competitors often receive substantially more assistance from their own governments,” he said. “If America is to compete globally and maintain a strong manufacturing base in our industries, we must provide the proper investments, research, and incentives to grow jobs here and assist our companies in scaling up operations. Our workers in the region are among the most innovative and productive in the world, and I remain confident that we can be competitive in the emerging clean energy field.”

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, said it’s “devastating news,” and state lawmakers must “wake up to the fact we must act with urgency to protect jobs and help nurture California’s economy back to good health. When we don’t, our families and communities suffer. The instant loss of 1,100 jobs in my district is big blow that will have negative trickle-down effects throughout the Bay Area.”

“Unfortunately, it is too late to help Solyndra, but many other companies are struggling and could benefit from legislation I have authored that would give California-based solar companies a bid preference on state contracts,” Corbett said. “If California is going to place solar panels on state property, shouldn’t we try to use panels made in California? Isn’t it common sense to use taxpayer dollars to support California jobs? This is a simple measure that can help protect California jobs.”

Corbett’s SB 175 would’ve provided a 5-percent bid preference to companies that certify they’re using California-assembled or manufactured solar panels; the state Senate passed the bill June 1 on a 27-11 vote, but the Assembly Business and Professions Committee nixed it last month. Corbett recently revived the measure by gutting-and-amending the language into SB 134; time is growing short in this legislative session, but Corbett spokesman Andrew LaMar said today that Speaker John Perez’ office has committed to scheduling a hearing on it.

Posted on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, economy, Ellen Corbett, energy | 36 Comments »

Lawmaker touts ‘fracking’ disclosure bill

Oil and gas producers engaged in hydraulic fracturing must be required to disclose the chemicals they’re pumping into the ground, an East Bay lawmaker said today.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, held a news conference at the State Capitol just before his AB 591 was taken up by the state Senate Appropriations Committee, which will decide next week whether to let the bill advance.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” (not to be confused with “frakking”), is a process in which a highly-pressurized mix of water, sand and toxic chemicals is injected underground to crack rock formations and tap into petroleum deposits. Some fear this can contaminate water supplies. Wieckowski’s bill would ensure that the state Conservation Department’s Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources gathers information on the chemicals used, and on the volume and source of water used in this process.

“Roughly 50,000 Californians have signed on-line petitions expressing their support for passing AB 591 and protecting our state’s environment,” hei said today. “They all agree with us that it is time to pull back the curtain and shed more light on fracking.”

With Wieckowski at today’s news conference were Assembly Assistant Majority Leader Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa; Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento; and representatives from the Environmental Working Group, California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Posted on Monday, August 15th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, energy, Environment | 14 Comments »

Skinner, Wieckowski to hold green jobs hearing

Two East Bay lawmakers will co-chair a hearing tomorrow in Sacramento on how California’s energy efficiency policies can create jobs.

Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, co-chair the Assembly Select Committee on California’s Clean Energy Economy.

“California’s growing clean energy industry has tremendous potential to reduce our energy costs, decrease our dependence on foreign oil and create job opportunities for Californians,” Wieckowski said in their news release, noting he recently held a “Made in California Jobs Summit” in his district.

Skinner said energy efficiency retrofits “are an opportunity to grow green jobs and protect all of us against rising energy prices; as an employment strategy, energy efficiency wins hands down.

The committee – convening at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in room 127 of the State Capitol – will examine what role energy efficiency policies have played in the state’s emerging green economy and the influence of regulations and funding sources in that sector, with testimony from the private sector, academia and government.

Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law Skinner’s AB X1 14, which expands the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority‘s Property Assessed Clean Energy program so the authority (which is within the state Treasurer’s office) can offer financial aid to banks for privately-issued loans for certain energy efficiency, water efficiency and renewable distributed power generation retrofit projects. In short, it aims to increase demand for such projects by making their financing more affordable, in turn putting contractors to work while reducing consumer energy bills.

The committee almost certainly will have to discuss the State Auditor’s recent finding that the California Energy Commission is still sitting on a pot of $183 million in Recovery Act funding earmarked for energy efficiency, energy conservation, renewable energy, and other energy related projects and activities – a lot of supposedly job-creating funds that are just sitting there. The commission must spend the money by the end of next April, or else the federal government takes it back.

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, economy, energy, Environment, Nancy Skinner | 1 Comment »

Lockyers hosting Assembly fundraiser tonight

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, are hosting a fundraiser tonight for Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, with some other Assembly candidates on the guest list as well.

Tickets to the wine reception at Wieckowski’s home start at $50 with sponsorships ranging up to $3,900, the maximum personal contribution to a legislative committee allowed by law.

Wieckowski, a freshman and former Fremont City Councilman, won the 20th District seat in November with 73 percent of the vote to Republican nominee Adnan Shahab’s 27 percent; Shahab has formed a committee to run again in 2012.

It won’t be nearly the same race, however. A first-draft map issued recently by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission shows the district in which both Wieckowski and Shahab reside would be markedly different from the 20th District’s existing lines.

Bill Lockyer’s fundraising prowess is legendary. His own Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 committee finished 2010 with just under $3 million in the bank, after both repelling a challenge from Republican nominee Mimi Walters and giving his wife’s supervisorial campaign more than $1.5 million. He has formed a committee to run for state controller in 2014.

Among those scheduled to attend tonight’s event, according to Facebook, is Peralta Community College District Trustee Abel Guillen of Oakland, who has formed his own committee to run for Assembly next year. Guillen lives in the 16th Assembly District, where Sandre Swanson will be term-limited out.

Also scheduled to attend tonight is Dr. Jennifer Ong, a Hayward optometrist who has formed a committee to run next year in the 18th Assembly District, where Mary Hayashi is term-limited out.

Posted on Friday, June 24th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bill Lockyer, Bob Wieckowski, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi, Sandre Swanson | 5 Comments »

Meet the East Bay’s veterans of the year

Each of the East Bay’s Assembly members named a Veteran of the Year this week, to be recognized at the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee’s annual luncheon today in Sacramento.

Read all about these inspirational vets, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Joan Buchanan, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, veterans | No Comments »

Assembly rejects lighter penalty for growing pot

The Assembly this week rejected a bill that would’ve reduced marijuana cultivation from a felony – punishable by 16 months, two years or three years in state prison – to a “wobbler” that can be filed either as a felony or as a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail.

AB 1017, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, failed Wednesday on a 24-36 vote. Assemblymembers Susan Bonilla, D-Concord; Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley; and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, voted for it, while Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, opposed it and Assemblywomen Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, didn’t vote.

Swanson said the communities he represents is struggling with a severe drug crisis, and the bill would’ve moved California in the wrong direction.

“If we really want comprehensive drug reform, we can’t just relax certain portions of the laws around marijuana cultivation and use. We need to address the issue comprehensively through federal law,” he said, adding he fears the bill sends the wrong message to kids, that recreational marijuana use is acceptable. “This is not appropriate, especially when federal law continues to prosecute the crime, with a disproportionate effect on communities of color. You can’t address these issues in a vacuum, particularly where our state law comes into conflict with the federal.”

He said he’ll remain open-minded on the issue, “but as long as I see marijuana use preventing many of our young people from getting employed because they can’t pass drug tests, and all of the other adverse and negative impacts by accepting this drug as recreational, it clearly isn’t the time to start lessening the restrictions on its cultivation or use. The consequences of making this a recreational drug –- or creating the perception that we are trending that way by lessening the restrictions — has long-term and significant consequences I am not prepared support.”

Reconsideration of the bill was granted Thursday, but it was ordered to the Assembly’s inactive file at the request of Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.

Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, was the lone GOP vote in support of the bill, which was sponsored by Mendocino County District Attorney C. David Eyster and supported by the California Public Defenders Association and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“The state legislature has once again demonstrated its incompetence when it comes to dealing with prison crowding,” California NORML Director Dale Gieringer said in a news release. “With California under court order to reduce its prison population, it is irresponsible to maintain present penalties for non-violent drug offenses. It makes no sense to keep marijuana growing a felony, when assault, battery, and petty theft are all misdemeanors. Legislators have once again caved in to the state’s law enforcement establishment, which has a vested professional interest in maximizing drug crime.”

The bill was opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, California Narcotics Officers’ Association, California Police Chiefs Association and California State Sheriffs’ Association.

Posted on Friday, June 3rd, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, marijuana, Mary Hayashi, Nancy Skinner, Sandre Swanson, Susan Bonilla, Tom Ammiano | 6 Comments »

E.Bay lawmakers react to Jerry Brown’s SOTS

Some East Bay lawmakers are sounding off on the State of the State address that Gov. Jerry Brown delivered earlier this evening. Guess what: They liked it.

From state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro:

“This governor is being honest with the Legislature and the voters. We can no longer pretend the state can right its ship without serious action. As Senate Majority Leader, I am committed to working across the aisle and with voters up and down the state to make sure we, once and for all, put California’s budget crisis behind us. Every single person in Sacramento and the state wants California to again be a leader in jobs and prosperity.”

From Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:

“Less than a week after assuming office, Governor Brown presented us with a budget that does not rely on accounting gimmicks or inflated revenue projections. He continued the dialogue tonight by talking honestly about the difficult choices all of us must make – Democrats and Republicans. It also is clear that the Governor understands the tremendous potential of California and the contributions that critical programs like education have made to our economy and our lifestyles. I share his vision and his optimism.

“I was born in California at a time when we were the leader in education, aerospace, research and many other industries. Anything was possible in our state then because we made critical investments in our infrastructure, and we were disciplined in how we spent our money and repaid our debt.

“I believe the Governor has been very forthright about the tough road that lies ahead and we must come together as Californians and be willing to make the sacrifices required to right our financial ship and rebuild our infrastructure, our schools, our colleges, our roads. It is both a fiscal and a moral imperative if our children are going to have the same opportunities as our generation.

“The Governor has repeatedly shared his commitment to education and to creating good jobs. These are two of my top priorities. As a budget subcommittee chair, I am holding hearings to review the Governor’s budget to allow for a thorough review and public comment as well as timely action. I am looking forward to continuing my work to help our great state regain its place as a leader in our nation.”

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“I think Governor Brown is being straight-forward and very candid about the challenges facing California and people find that refreshing. He’s not using any smoke and mirrors or Hollywood flash, nor is he searching for scapegoats.

“The reality is there aren’t any quick fixes or silver bullets to get us out of this mess. We need to cushion the blow for those families who have already suffered the most from the recession, and we need to stimulate job growth. We can do that by becoming more competitive in manufacturing, putting people to work to modernize our facilities and make them more energy efficient, and by investing in our universities to advance our biotech industries.

“Our challenges are daunting, but they can be overcome by the creativity and imagination that has made our state the eighth-largest economy in the world.”

As the Bay Area has elected no Republicans to this Legislature, I picked a few GOP voices from elsewhere in the state. Follow me after the jump to read ‘em…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 31st, 2011
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, Joan Buchanan, Mimi Walters, Tom Harman | 1 Comment »