BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





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          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2009-2010 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
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          BILL NO: AB 2761                   HEARING DATE: June 9, 2010  
          AUTHOR: Assembly Natural Resources Cmte.URGENCY: No
          VERSION: June 3, 2010              CONSULTANT: Katharine Moore
          DUAL REFERRAL: No                  FISCAL:Yes
          SUBJECT: Natural Resources
          
          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
          This is the Assembly Natural Resources committee bill.

          The California Geological Survey (CGS) is the primary state  
          agency responsible for geologic hazard review and investigation  
          including the study and assessment of seismic hazards and  
          earthquakes.  The state geologist is appointed by the director  
          of the Department of Conservation and must meet certain  
          professional requirements.  The State Geologist is required to  
          provide advice to the director regarding technical, scientific  
          and engineering issues, including the scientific quality of the  
          California Geological Survey's (CGS)  products and activities.    
           Existing law authorizes the state geologist to enter into  
          contracts and agreements with certain entities to provide  
          funding for services provided by the CGS pursuant to its  
          mission, and the CGS routinely contracts with state and federal  
          governmental entities for a variety of geological services.  Due  
          to a recent technical drafting error (c. 254, Statutes of 2007  
          altering section 2205, Public Resources Code), the types of  
          entities that CGS may contract with have become ambiguous.  Of  
          particular concern is CGS's ability to contract directly with  
          school districts to review geological hazard assessments and  
          proposed mitigation for school construction projects.   
          Historically, the Department of State Architects (DSA) has  
          secured CGS' assistance for these reviews via interagency  
          agreements, and has provided direct reimbursement to CGS from  
          funds paid directly to DSA by the school districts.  A recent  
          policy change by the DSA now necessitates the execution of  
          individual contracts between CGS and each school district for  
          these reviews.

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          Division 3, Chapter 1 of the Public Resources Code concerns the  
          Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) in the  
          Department of Conservation.  Section 3102 declares that "the  
          Attorney General shall be the legal advisor for" DOGGR and  
          "shall perform or provide such legal services for" DOGGR as may  
          be required.  Pursuant to Section 11040 et seq. of the  
          Government Code, the Attorney General (AG) represents state  
          agencies in litigation and other judicial proceedings.

          The California Urban Forestry Act of 1978 (sections  
          4799.06-4799.12, Public Resources Code) sets many goals of  
          multiple benefit to urban communities.  These include promoting  
          the use of urban forest resources; stopping the decline of urban  
          forests; improving environmental quality; creating local  
          forestry-related jobs; reducing energy consumption through the  
          advantageous use of tree and vegetative cover; reducing the  
          spread and impact of disease on urban forests and encouraging  
          maximum citizen participation and the cooperation of state and  
          local agencies in urban forestry projects, among others.   
          Although non-tree vegetation is specifically mentioned in parts  
          of the Act (e.g. sections 4799.07h, 4799.08d, 4799.09d), the  
          current definition of "urban forestry" (section 4799.09c) is  
          limited to trees.  While the Department of Forestry and Fire  
          Prevention (CalFire) and other state agencies are authorized in  
          the Act to loan equipment to assist local tree maintenance  
          programs (section 4799.11b), the use of the word "surplus"  
          triggers the processes that the State Administrative Manual  
          requires for the disposal of surplus state property.  Declaring  
          this equipment, such as portable sawmills, "surplus" makes the  
          equipment available to other departments and agencies for other  
          uses, potentially thwarting the purpose of section 4799.11b.   
          Further, limiting equipment loans to "local tree maintenance"  
          does not include the potential for this equipment to help meet  
          the urban waste reduction goals of AB 939 (Sher, c.1095,  
          Statutes of 1989) through fostering the recycling and reuse of  
          urban wood.

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill:
                (i)  clarifies that the State Geologist may enter into  
                 grant or cooperative agreements and contracts with  
                 governmental - including school districts - and  
                 non-governmental entities to provide technical, analytic  
                 and research services related to geologic hazards  
                 directly impacting those entities;
               (ii)                                repeals the provision  
                 requiring the Attorney General to act as the legal  
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                 advisor and    provide legal services to DOGGR;
               (iii)                               updates the Urban  
                 Forestry Act by modifying the definition of "urban  
                 forestry" to include non-tree vegetation, and by  
                 facilitating equipment loans to aid local or regional  
                 urban forestry projects including green waste  
                 utilization.

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
          According to the Department of Conservation, "ensuring that CGS  
          can provide review and consultation regarding geological hazards  
          at proposed school sites will ensure the safety of California's  
          schoolchildren."  This bill "will provide the flexibility needed  
          to ensure that CGS technical expertise is available to other  
          types of government entities in evaluating and assessing  
          geologic and seismic hazards."

          The authors state that "most agencies rely on the AG for  
          litigation services only.  However, existing law, a relic of  
          1939, requires the AG to perform all legal services for DOGGR,  
          including review of permits, proposed regulations, environmental  
          impact reports, and communications associated with public  
          records requests; and advising DOGGR management on policy or  
          regulatory changes, among others.  These services are more  
          appropriate for the Department's in-house counsel to perform.   
          DOGGR would remain represented by the AG in litigation matters."

          According to the authors, adding "related vegetation" to the  
          definition of "urban forestry" is "widely accepted nation-wide,"  
          and also "well within the parameters of the Urban Forestry Act  
          as it currently stands."  "Forests (and urban forests) are more  
          than just trees in both structure and function.  Much of the  
          land area in a city is rooftops and other places you cannot  
          necessarily plant trees.  Likewise, having vegetation below the  
          canopy of the urban forest provides additional functionality for  
          storm-water runoff and other issues."  Gaining the ability to  
          more readily loan out equipment such as portable sawmills in  
          support of urban forestry efforts is "similar to how other  
          programs loan out chippers to help reduce hazardous fuels in the  
          wild-land urban interface."  Equipment loans would potentially  
          be of considerable assistance to municipalities attempting to  
          meet urban forestry goals and may also create jobs.
          
          SUPPORT
          None received

          OPPOSITION: None received
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