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No person, company or industry should get a legal pass to pollute our waters.

At Orange County Coastkeeper, our shared right to clean water comes first. We will never stand for any legislation that compromises California’s standards for water quality regulations.

That’s why we cannot support a bill that provides a safe harbor to agricultural polluters while weakening agricultural regulations.

The latest news on this bill from Sacramento

In the past few weeks, the California Legislature did not act on this legislation. California Senate Bill 844 (SB 844) was referred back to the appropriations committee on Aug. 24, as the state’s legislative session came to a close.

We have already seen an earlier version of this bill (SB 644) go through a similar process, and the state Senate majority leader has pledged to reintroduce legislation addressing the issue next year.

How would this kind of policy threaten clean water?

SB 844 creates a precedent for polluters to negotiate payment in lieu of meeting clean water laws, while more importantly, undermining California’s ability to regulate agricultural practices and sacrificing our groundwater quality for decades.

SB 844 proposes considerable changes to the way the State will regulate agricultural pollution for those growers who pay a voluntary tax.

By exempting agricultural operations that pay an applicable fee, the bill would effectively shield these operations from any realistic possibility of enforcement.

Our recommended alternative to protect statewide waters and communities

The bill must be amended to remove any safe harbor from enforcement liability.

As recognized by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, water quality is getting “substantially worse each year” under California’s current agricultural program.  Unless SB 844 is ammended, California’s groundwater will only continue to get worse as agricultural permits are weakened.

We are deeply concerned about the creation of a “pay-to-pollute” scheme that could perpetuate, rather than mitigate, polluting practices and compromise Californians access to safe and affordable drinking water.

We must allow California more time to work on a solution that provides clean, safe, affordable and accessible water to all Californians, while improving – rather than degrading – groundwater quality.

To learn more, click here to view our comment letter to the State Assembly Budget Committee.