CSAC Bulletin Article

2021 Budget Updates–AENR

July 15, 2021

Since the June 15 Budget deadline, budget advocacy has resulted in the following updates to Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources programs. 

Recycling Pilot Programs Extended and Expanded

The FY 2021-22 budget extends the sunset date of the beverage container recycling pilot program from January 1, 2023, to January 1, 2027, and increases the number of pilot projects from five to ten with the maximum number of operating years from three to five. These programs are designed to give local governments and partners flexibility in their recycling programs, and to inform the state CalRecycle department about alternatives to the uniform statewide programs.

Drought Contract Relief

As part of greater funding opportunities for drought-related grant and support programs, the budget provides some guidelines for the declaration of a drought scenario. Separate from an emergency declaration, the drought scenario provides temporary flexibility, until January 1, 2024, and ties to state and local assistance funding in the budget. The eligible interim relief covers hauled water, temporary community water tanks, bottled water, water vending machines, emergency water interties, new wells or rehabilitation of existing wells, construction of connections to adjacent water systems, recycled water projects, or other projects that provide immediate drought response, and fish and wildlife protection. A drought scenario may be called by the Governor or State Water Board with notice to the Legislature and relevant state emergency and natural resources agencies.

Water Debt Arrearages—Including Wastewater

As part of a $1 billion federal relief program, the budget gives guidance to the State Water Board on how to distribute relief funding to reduce customer water bills as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, and to support local water agencies. This funding covers water debt from residential and commercial customers accrued between March 4, 2020, and June 15, 2021, if that customer is 60 days or more behind on their payments. For counties that maintain wastewater systems, if there are excess funds after the initial disbursement period which lasts through January 2022, the remaining funds are required to cover wastewater debt with disbursement beginning no later than February 1, 2022.

UC Cooperative Extension Restored—Look for More Funding, Positions and Support

Counties and partners across the state pushed hard for restoration of the University of California (UC) Cooperative Extension program through the UC Agriculture and Natural (UC ANR) Resources division. The budget not only restores the UC ANR’s budget to pre-COVID levels of FY 2019-20, but adds a five percent increase plus an additional $32 million in ongoing funding, bringing the total state budget to $107.9 million. This budget increase is transformational and will allow the program to expand and serve local partners statewide.

Update on Cannabis Consolidation and Regulations

CSAC initially opposed provisions of the cannabis trailer bill legislation that would consolidate the various state agency functions into a single entity due to additional requirements posed on local governments included in this bill. Specifically, certain provisions would not have allowed the full range of commonplace mechanisms utilized by lead agencies to meet the state’s CEQA obligations for cannabis licensure. After negotiations with the Legislature and Administration, the coalition of counties and cities moved to a neutral position as concerns regarding CEQA requirements for future renewals of provisional commercial cannabis licenses. Provisions in the legislation now allow for the varied CEQA processes utilized by local jurisdictions and provide further clarity regarding the environmental review expectations for provisional license renewals. 

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