California’s water resources currently support 35 million people and irrigate more than 5.68 million acres of farmland. Due to the state’s natural resources development, especially water, California has become a premier agricultural producer, a major location for manufacturing, the most populated state in the nation and the eighth largest economy in the world. However, this rigorous development has had consequences for natural resources in California.
Fish populations have decreased, wetlands have been drained to create landfills, and dams and levees have changed the course of natural water flows. Invasive species and plants are altering ecosystems and affecting native habitat. Many species of native plants and wildlife have been depleted or become extinct altogether, and water quality has been lowered by ranching, agriculture, mining and urban sources of pollution.
Just last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 205 into law. This bill addresses the permeating issue of the lack of regulation of California’s clean water laws in industrial facilities. Currently, close to 10,000 industrial facilities are regulated by California’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, however, there are thousands of other facilities that have failed to comply. Hazardous stormwater pollution from these unregulated facilities including landfills, manufacturing plants, and oil refineries flows into our waterways when it rains, depleting the health of these local waterways.
Senator Hertzberg of San Fernando Valley and California Coastkeeper Alliance worked closely with State and Regional Water Boards to develop an effective solution to improving stormwater discharge regulation. Stormwater is California’s largest urban source of water pollution, and although California has the strongest industrial stormwater permit in the country, the state cannot restore its waterways to health without the compliance of its’ industrial facilities.
SB 205 will require these facilities to show proof of their industrial stormwater NPDES permit enrollment when applying for or renewing their business license under penalty of perjury. Beginning January 1, 2020, all applications for the applicable business licenses and renewals will be subject to these new regulations. The bill would also permit cities or counties to develop a provisional license procedure for business license renewals which would give businesses 3 months to comply with these regulations.
This bill will also require the city or county to determine the applicability of any Standard Industrial Classification Code (used to classify industries) in order to ensure the information submitted to prove permit enrollment correlates with the business applying for a business license or renewal. On or before April 1, 2020, the State Water Resources Control Board will be required to post a list of applicable Standard Industrial Classification Codes on its website for the determinations made by cities or counties and would require the list to be updated, as specified.
Overall, this bill encourages uniformity of California’s requirements for water quality and aims to reinforce the state’s goal of keeping toxic pollutants out of precious water sources to attain drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters in California.