CSAC Bulletin Article

New Laws Impacting Counties: Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources

Oct. 11, 2018

With Governor Brown signing over 1,000 bills into law this year CSAC is publishing a series of articles to spotlight new laws that impact counties from each policy area. This week, the report from the AENR provides information on new laws affecting fire hazard planning in high fire areas, fire and forest management resources, drinking water, cannabis, and solid waste management. Stay tuned for more updates from other policy areas over the next several weeks.

Bills with direct implications to counties are discussed below. The new laws listed below become effective January 1, 2019 unless otherwise noted.

Fire Hazard Planning

SB 1260 (Jackson) provides for collaboration between local governments and Cal FIRE in counties that contain a State Responsibility Area (SRA) or a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. The bill also allows Cal FIRE to enter into more prescribed burn operation agreements with private or non-governmental entities, provided that certain conditions are met. The planning piece of the law will require the referral of adoptions or amendments of a general plan’s safety element to Cal FIRE, local fire protection agencies that protect territory where the amendment or adoption will occur, and the California Geological Survey. Specifically in regards to local planning, this bill:

  • Requires local governments to declare by ordinance very high fire hazard severity areas within 120 days after receiving notice about those areas from the Director of Cal FIRE and must notify Cal FIRE within 30 days after the adoption of the ordinance.
  • Requires local governments to submit new or amended safety elements to Cal FIRE. Cal FIRE will review the elements and send back recommendations within a set time period. The law also includes a process for times when the local government decides not to adopt recommendations provided by Cal Fire, which includes putting a hold on the adoption of the safety element for limited time to allow for a meeting between the local government and Cal FIRE to discuss the recommendations.
  • Requires counties to submit tentative maps or parcel maps for sub division to Cal FIRE with a declaration that the maps meet defensible space requirements and have adequate fire protection service.

SB 1035 (Jackson) requires a local planning agency, at least once every eight years, to review and, if necessary, revise the safety element upon revisions of a housing element or local hazard mitigation plan (LHMP) to identify new information relating to flood and fire hazards, climate adaptation, and resiliency strategies applicable to the city or county that were not available during a previous revision of the safety element.

Fire and Forest Management Resources

SB 901 (Dodd) addresses the catastrophic wildfires across California and was one of CSAC’s top priorities during the 2018 session. CSAC supported this new law because it addresses forest management and fire prevention funding, utility debt management and cost recovery. Key elements of the proposal include $200 million a year from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for the next five years for forest health and fire prevention projects, several exemptions for fuel reduction and forest management projects, and requirements for Cal FIRE to develop regulations for safety standards and fuel break setbacks for commercial and residential developments in very high fire severity zones. The bill requires these rulemakings to be done on or after July 1st 2021. For more information on SB 901, visit the CSAC website.

AB 1956 (Limon) requires Cal FIRE to establish a local assistance grant program for fire prevention activities and would allow for advance payments of awarded grants to local governments and other agencies. CSAC will work with Cal FIRE in the development of the grant guidelines for this new grant program.


SB 1215 (Hertzberg) authorizes California’s regional water boards to mandate the provision of sanitary sewer services to disadvantaged communities by local governments and special districts. CSAC was opposed to this measure because we believe it does not adequately and fully address concerns around sanitary sewer costs and due process for local communities. However, the mandated consolidation process does require the regional board water board to “fully consider input” from the relevant local agency formation commission (LAFCO), local government and planning agencies in the areas where the regional board requires extension or consolidation of service. In addition, the consolidation process requires the regional water board to help negotiate a financing agreement between the users in a disadvantaged community and the receiving water system. The State Water Quality Control Board is allowed to make funds available for the expansion of these sewer systems and is required to provide financial assistance for infrastructure. The law also requires the State Board to pay standard LAFCO fees caused by the regional board’s order.


SB 1459 (Cannella) passed as an urgency measure; this law took effect immediately upon its signing on September 27th. This bill will help jurisdictions that are in the process of licensing and permitting cannabises businesses at the local level by allowing for additional time to work through the permitting and environmental review process. SB 1459 allows state licensing agencies to issue provisional annual commercial cannabis licenses to businesses that hold a temporary state license for the same premises and the same activity, and that have an application pending with a local jurisdiction provided that the potential licensee is in good standing. State temporary licenses will expire at the end of the year. Prior to the passage of SB 1459, cannabis businesses were ineligible for a state annual license unless the local permitting and environmental review process was complete. This law will allow local jurisdictions additional time to review pending commercial cannabis applications at the local level, and to complete the environmental review process. Provisional annual cannabis licenses are available to all license types that qualify, and businesses must pay annual license fees and participate in the state’s track and trace system.

Solid Waste Management

SB 212 (Jackson) establishes a producer- funded take back program for unused home-generated drugs and medical sharps waste. Local governments have been at the forefront of this issue. Alameda County’s 2012 drug take-back ordinance was the first “producer responsibility” program in the country. Since that time, a number of other counties have passed ordinances related to the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals and sharps. While this jurisdiction- by- jurisdiction approach was been successful, SB 212 bill establishes a more comprehensive statewide system that will help to increase collection rates and provide for standardization and clarity for manufacturers and consumers alike. Accordingly, SB 212 preempts a local government from enacting a local stewardship program for covered products after April 18, 2018. In addition, the bill also includes provisions to provide reimbursement to local governments that dispose of medical sharps waste. Reimbursement shall be limited to actual transportation costs from household hazardous waste facilities and costs of disposal. Reimbursement claims will not be eligible until 270 days after the approval of product stewardship plan as is prescribed and required in the new law.


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