BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
                              Senator Wieckowski, Chair
                                2015 - 2016  Regular 
           
          Bill No:            AB 2139
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          |Author:    |Williams                                             |
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          |Version:   |6/20/2016              |Hearing      |6/29/2016       |
          |           |                       |Date:        |                |
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          |Urgency:   |No                     |Fiscal:      |Yes             |
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          |Consultant:|Dan Brumbaugh                                        |
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          SUBJECT:  Ocean Protection Council:  ocean acidification.

            ANALYSIS:
          
          Existing law:  
          
          1) Establishes the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and  
             the California Ocean Protection Trust Fund (OPTF) through SB  
             1319 (Burton, Alpert, Chapter 719, Statutes of 2004) to  
             coordinate, streamline, and improve the effectiveness of  the  
             state's oversight of its ocean resources; designate ocean and  
             marine ecosystems as a public trust; and promote ocean  
             protection policies based on sound science.  The OPC  
             administers the OPTF to carry out its duties, and to make  
             grants or loans to public agencies, non-profits or private  
             entities for projects that protect and enhance ocean  
             resources, as specified, including the development of  
             monitoring and scientific data to improve state efforts to  
             protect and conserve ocean resources. (Public Resources Code  
             35600 et seq.)

          This bill:

          1) Makes findings and declarations regarding: 

             a)    The West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science  
                Panel and its recent findings and recommendations as  
                outlined in its Executive Summary.

             b)    The mission of the OPC, to ensure that the state  







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                maintains healthy, resilient, and productive ocean and  
                coastal ecosystems for the benefit of current and future  
                generations, including addressing ocean acidification  
                (OA).

          2) States that the OPC, subject to the availability of funding,  
             may develop an ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) science  
             task force.

          3) Requires, subject to the availability of funding, that the  
             OPC take action to address OAH, including:

             a)    Implementing measures to facilitate climate change  
                adaptation in the ocean, as specified;

             b)    Developing, refining, and integrating predictive models  
                of OAH, as specified;

             c)    Working with other agencies to coordinate and ensure  
                that criteria and standards for coastal water health to  
                address OAH are developed and informed by the best  
                available science;

             d)    Developing a comprehensive inventory of OAH-vulnerable  
                areas in California;

             e)    Facilitating agreements with other national, regional,  
                and state governments and private entities to establish  
                and advance joint priorities for OAH research; and

             f)    Identifying and defining gaps, as specified, between OA  
                monitoring efforts and management needs and the actions  
                necessary to address these gaps.

          4) Adopt recommendations annually, as specified, for further  
             actions that may be taken to address OA.

            Background
          
          1) Growth in concerns about ocean ecosystem health. A series of  
             reports over the last two decades have documented large-scale  
             declines in the health of the state's ocean and coastal  
             ecosystems. These include the 1997 Resources Agency report,  
             California's Ocean Resources: An Agenda for the Future, the  








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             2003 Pew Oceans Commission report, America's Living Oceans:  
             Charting a Course for Sea Change, and the 2004 United States  
             Commission on Ocean Policy report, An Ocean Blueprint for the  
             21st Century. These earlier reports were wide-ranging,  
             synthetic, and influential in that they led to the creation  
             of the OPC within California.

          2) Ocean Protection Council. OPC is tasked with 1) coordinating  
             activities of ocean-related state agencies to improve the  
             effectiveness of state efforts to protect ocean resources  
             within existing fiscal limitations, 2) establishing policies  
             to coordinate the collection and sharing of scientific data  
             related to coast and ocean resources between agencies, 3)  
             identifying and recommending to the Legislature changes in  
             law, and 4) identifying and recommending changes in federal  
             law and policy to the Governor and Legislature.

          3) Ocean acidification and hypoxia. Scientific and policy  
             awareness of OA as a serious concern has grown since the  
             start of the 21st century. OA is caused by a series of  
             chemical reactions that occur as the surface waters of the  
             ocean absorb a portion (about a third) of the extra carbon  
             dioxide (CO2) produced by human activities and emitted into  
             the atmosphere. These reactions result in seawater that is  
             more corrosive, with a lower pH ("acidification") and a lower  
             concentration of dissolved carbonate ions that many marine  
             organisms on the sea bottom and in the plankton use to grow  
             their shells and skeletons.

             West Coast oyster farms have faced economic losses from the  
             intake of especially corrosive waters and its impacts on  
             oyster spat, and have had to modify their operations to try  
             to cope with this threat. For example, some farms now monitor  
             ocean chemistry and avoid in-taking seawater during periods  
             when it is harmful to young shellfish. Others are now  
             chemically treating batches of seawater in their facilities  
             to make it more suited to the needs of shellfish, but such  
             treatments are currently only feasible at the scale of  
             smaller, closed-system operations.

             The threats posed by increasing OA are further compounded by  
             other dimensions of climate change, such as the  
             intensification and expansion of low dissolved oxygen - or  
             hypoxic - zones in the ocean. The run-off of freshwater- and  








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             land-based nutrients and organic carbon into the ocean can  
             spur the generation of these zones. When spread across large  
             enough areas, low levels of dissolved oxygen can result in  
             "dead zones" where mass die-offs of fish and shellfish occur.  
             In the coming decades, the impacts of OA and OAH, which are  
             already being felt across West Coast systems, are projected  
             to grow rapidly in intensity and extent.

          4)West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel. The  
            state of scientific knowledge about OAH has grown rapidly in  
            the last decade, although much remains to be understood. In  
            October 2013, the OPC asked the California Ocean Science  
            Trust, in collaboration with counterparts in Oregon, to  
            establish and coordinate the West Coast Ocean Acidification  
            and Hypoxia Science Panel. Including scientific experts from  
            California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia, the  
            panel was charged with summarizing the current state of  
            knowledge and developing scientific consensus about available  
            management options. In January 2016, the Senate Natural  
            Resources and Water Committee convened an Informational  
            Hearing where OAH panel scientists discussed aspects of the  
            emerging science of OA. In April 2016, the panel released  
            documents describing the major findings, ongoing research  
            priorities, and recommended actions that can nevertheless be  
            taken by management now.

          5)Implications of ocean acidification for California. According  
            to the report, because of oceanographic circulation dynamics  
            in the North Pacific, California's coastal ecosystems are  
            particularly exposed to impacts of OA. And as with other  
            mitigation and adaptation aspects of carbon emissions, when it  
            comes to addressing OA, there is a cost to management  
            inaction. This is because OA impacts, and the difficulties of  
            addressing them, will only get worse in the foreseeable  
            future.

            Although the changes to ocean carbonate chemistry that  
            California is experiencing are unavoidably linked to changes  
            in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 globally, there is a  
            lag of decades in the linkage between global atmospheric  
            conditions and our local coastal waters. This is because our  
            upwelled coastal waters originated as surface waters off of  
            Japan 30-50 years prior. As the water gets transported,  
            continuing biological respiration of organic particles  








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            releases more CO2, making the water even lower in pH and  
            carbonate. This water then travels down the west coast of  
            North America, where, especially along certain parts of the  
            coastline and under certain seasonal wind conditions, it is  
            upwelled and spread across the continental shelf. Because of  
            this transport and enrichment process, the state of ocean  
            chemistry off of California's coast is 30-50 years behind the  
            state of the atmosphere. In other words, if rising atmospheric  
            carbon concentrations were to become instantaneously  
            stabilized, we would still be "locked into" increasing OA  
            impacts for another three or more decades.

            Although research about possible impacts is still emerging,  
            there is evidence to suggest that more extreme ocean chemistry  
            will push ecosystems beyond certain biological thresholds,  
            such as pH levels and carbonate concentrations that small  
            young shelled organisms in the plankton and along shores need  
            to grow and survive.

            Comments
          
          1) Purpose of Bill.  

             According to the author, "many studies point to the harmful  
             effects of ocean acidification, but the state does not  
             currently have enough data at its disposal to evaluate the  
             scope of the problem or make educated policy decisions. Key  
             strategies to address this deficiency include generating an  
             inventory of ocean acidification 'hot spots,' developing  
             predictive models of ocean acidification, and defining gaps  
             between monitoring efforts and management needs. Up to this  
             point there has been very little focus on ocean acidification  
             at the state level, and this measure codifies ocean  
             acidification as a priority for the Legislature and the Ocean  
             Protection Council."

          2) Current OPC authority and priorities. The OPC appears to have  
             existing authority to create a task force on ocean  
             acidification and hypoxia, but explicit statutory direction  
             may increase the OPC's ability to fund work in this area in  
             the future. The OPC played a significant role, for example,  
             in the development of the OAH Science Panel project. Notably,  
             AB 2139 does not provide highly specific guidance on the  
             focus of the task force, which appears to be in response to  








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             OPC preference to more thoroughly think through the results  
             from the previous OAH Science Panel before deciding and  
             undertaking next steps.

             The research and coordination OPC actions specified in AB  
             2139 are also generally in line with existing OPC interests  
             in the areas of OAH, including how to best fill key  
             scientific gaps and apply new knowledge to decision making  
             and resource management. The bill's legislative guidance,  
             therefore, will likely not substantially change OPC's program  
             of work but may enhance its ability to fund these actions.

          3) Funding? AB 2139 does not appropriate any funds, so  
             implementing AB 2139 may require new, unspecified funding to  
             the Ocean Protection Trust Fund. One source of funds may be  
             those allocated to OPC through The Water Quality, Supply, and  
             Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1), which  
             entails $30 million dollars for OPC for "multibenefit water  
             quality, water supply, and watershed protection and  
             restoration projects for the watersheds of the state." (PRC  
             79731)

          4) Technical fixes. A committee amendment is necessary to  
             clarify provision (b)(1)(F), which should read "In  
             coordination with relevant federal, state, and academic  
             entities, identify gaps between the monitoring of ocean  
             acidification and hypoxia and management needs, and take  
             actions necessary to address these gaps.

             In addition, in provision (b)(2), for inclusivity and  
             consistency with other usage throughout the proposed code,  
             the phrase "and hypoxia" should be added to the mention of  
             "ocean acidification."
             
            Related/Prior Legislation
          
          SB 1363 (Monning) establishes the Ocean Acidification and  
          Hypoxia Reduction Program within OPC, which would include the  
          development of a number of demonstration projects, including the  
          experimental restoration of eelgrass to mitigate the effects of  
          ocean acidification. SB 1363 is currently in the Assembly  
          Natural Resources Committee.

          Washington SB 5547 (Ranker) creates the Washington Marine  








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          Resources Protection Council within the Office of the Governor  
          to 1) advise the governor on policies relating to the protection  
          and conservation of ocean resources; 2) coordinate the  
          implementation of measures to mitigate the impacts of ocean  
          acidification; and 3) advance the state's ocean and Puget Sound  
          resources policies in national, regional, and west coast  
          multistate forums. SB 5547 allows urban governmental services to  
          be extended for the reduction of acidifying runoff to marine  
          waters when recommended by the Department of Ecology in  
          consultation with the Washington Marine Resources Protection  
          Council as a measure necessary to address the localized impacts  
          to marine waters of ocean acidification.

          DOUBLE REFERRAL:  

          This measure was heard in Senate Natural Resources and Water  
          Committee on 
          June 14, 2016, and passed out of committee with a vote of 7-2.
            
          SOURCE: Author  

           SUPPORT: 
                         
          California Coastkeeper Alliance
          Center for Biological Diversity
          Defenders of Wildlife
          Monterey Bay Aquarium
          Natural Resources Defense Council
          Ocean Conservancy
          Oceana
          Sierra Club California
          Surfrider Foundation
          The Nature Conservancy
          1 individual academic scientist
           
           OPPOSITION:  
            
          None received  
           
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