Governor Signs Cervantes Bill to Support California’s Just Transition to a Lower Carbon Economy

Friday, September 25, 2020

(SACRAMENTO) – During Climate Week, Assembly Bill 639 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. AB 639 initiates a stakeholder process to engage those most affected by California’s transition to a lower carbon economy at California’s largest seaports. In signing this bill, Governor Newsom becomes the first California governor to squarely take on the issue of a just transition for California workers.

California’s climate action goals, adopted in 2017, require the state to implement a set of strategies to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emission levels equal to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. To date, California has established programs to support emerging clean energy and green jobs and has implemented policies to limit, to the extent possible, negatively impacting employment or lower income communities.

While California has made remarkable progress on reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, the state has not meaningfully addressed the impacts of these actions on incumbent workers and the businesses in which they are employed. This situation has been especially challenging to the state’s goods movement system, particularly in maintaining smooth operations at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The state’s current freight transport system accounts for about half of toxic diesel particulate matter, 45% of the emissions of nitrogen oxides that form ozone and fine particulate matter in the atmosphere, and 6% of the GHG emissions in California. Executive Order B-32-15 [issued July 2015] called for the development of an integrated plan, the California Sustainable Freight Action Plan, for the purpose of improving freight efficiency, transitioning goods movement to zero-emission technologies, and increasing the competitiveness of the state’s freight system.  However, the current Action Plan does not address the needs of incumbent works who may be left stranded and without viable skills as the state transitions to new technologies to operate ports free of GHG emissions.

Part of addressing climate change is acknowledgment that some of the necessary actions taken by the state will result in unintended consequences for workers. With that acknowledgment, there is the opportunity to proactively mitigate negative outcomes and support a just transition to those individuals whose lives are being impacted. AB 639 takes a two-prong approach:

  1. Requires the commencement of a stakeholder process to support the development of findings and recommendations on ways to mitigate the employment impacts of automation and the transition to low- or zero-emission operations at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.
  2. Requires the California Workforce Development Board to make a presentation to the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change on activities and investments undertaken to implement recommendations from the AB 398 report. 

“Automation and the state’s drive to deploy new zero-emission equipment at California ports are placing indefensible pressures on workers and their families,” said Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy.  “Our economy in the Inland Empire is dependent upon a well-functioning port and logistics network. AB 639 will help California build an equitable game plan that is capable of supporting an inclusive economy for all Californians while also achieving our state’s climate action goals. Workers, as well as businesses, deserve certainty and respect for the important role they play within the California economy.”

“I applaud Assemblymember Cervantes for authoring legislation that makes workforce investment and transition a priority as California pursues meaningful progress on climate change,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “We look forward to working with our longshore labor and industry partners to assess job impacts of zero- and near-zero equipment at the port complex.  In this way, we can achieve our climate goals, while ensuring we continue to be a job creation engine for the local, state and national economy.”

Supporters of AB 639 include the California Association of Port Authorities, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, International Longshore Warehouse Union, Locals 13, 63 and 94, Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles.

AB 639 was approved by both houses of the Legislature with overwhelming, bipartisan support. The provisions of the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2021. You can find more information about the bill here.

# # #

Sabrina Cervantes is a mother who proudly represents the 60th District of the California State Assembly, which encompasses the cities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, a portion of Riverside, and the unincorporated communities of Coronita, El Cerrito, and Home Gardens. Cervantes serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy.