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Implementation of "AB 32"--Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006

February 20, 2008 - Contrary to legislative direction, the Governor has failed to identify a stable, long-term source of funding in the budget for implementation of "AB 32"--climate change legislation enacted in 2006. Instead, the Governor has relied on more borrowing from unrelated special funds to pay for a majority of the program. While not taking issue with the merits of the activities proposed for funding, we recommend that the Legislature defer action on a majority of the budget proposal until the administration submits a funding plan that is responsive to legislative direction.

Report

CALFED Bay-Delta Program

February 20, 2008 - Various Delta-related planning efforts, including Delta Vision, have made recommendations that, if adopted, will fundamentally change the future approach of the CALFED Bay-Delta Program. We recommend denial of some CALFED budget proposals on the basis that, contrary to recommendations of the planning efforts, they either lack clear objectives and funding priorities, do not apply the beneficiary pays funding principle, or do not meet the information needs of policy makers.

Report

Restoring the Salton Sea

January 24, 2008 - First, we recommend the Legislature set explicit policy priorities in statute for addressing environmental problems at the Sea. We consider protection of air quality and preservation of wildlife habitat to be the highest priorities. Second, we recommend the Legislature adopt a comprehensive plan at the outset of the restoration process. Finally, we recommend the Legislature consider funding interim measures to address priority issues such as air quality or wildlife habitat in the near term.

Report

Improving the Appraisal Function in Resources Land Acquisitions

October 18, 2007 - With the billions of dollars of state funds spent in recent years or available for expenditure (from existing bond funds) for land acquisitions for resource conservation purposes, it is important that the purchase price of these acquisitions be supported by a sound appraisal process. However, our review found that the quality and objectivity of state resource-related appraisals are impeded by both a lack of comprehensive standards and insufficient independence of the appraisal function from the land-acquiring agencies. We also found that limits on the public disclosure of appraisal-related information make public and legislative oversight of resource acquisitions difficult. In this report, we make several recommendations to improve the appraisal function for resource acquisitions, ultimately to protect taxpayers from being overcharged in these transactions.

Report

Baldwin Hills Conservancy: Meeting Objectives; More Work to Be Done

March 27, 2007 - To promote conservation of its natural resources, the state has created a number of conservancies to acquire and protect undeveloped land within specific geographic regions. In 2000, the Legislature created one such conservancy for the Baldwin Hills area of the Los Angeles Basin, which is scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2008. As statute requires, this report reviews the conservancy’s progress and considers the merits of extending the conservancy’s sunset date. We find that, generally, the conservancy has operated in a manner consistent with its statutory role, and while the conservancy has made progress, more remains to be done to meet statutory objectives. We recommend extending the conservancy’s sunset date by five years, preceded by a sunset review of its performance and its relevance at this later time to the state’s overall conservation goals.

Report

Information Technology at the Water Boards

February 21, 2007 - On numerous occasions, the Legislature has stressed the fundamental role that management of data—including permitting, enforcement, and water quality—plays in assisting the State Water Resources Control Board carry out its mission. Legislative oversight of the board’s information technology (IT) projects is critical, as we find that the board has been developing information technology systems outside of the budget process and that the board lacks an up-to-date strategic plan to guide its IT activity. We make a number of recommendations to provide the necessary oversight.

Report

CALFED Bay-Delta Program

February 21, 2007 - The budget proposes $473.6 million across eight state agencies for the CALFED Bay-Delta Program in 2007-08. We recommend tying the use of performance measures (currently under development) to the budget process, and raise concerns about a number of CALFED’s budget proposals. Specifically, we find that the funding proposal for the South Delta Improvements program is premature, matching funds are lacking to allow the surface storage feasibility study work to practically proceed, and that the budget inappropriately proposes bond funds to replace water user funding contributions that have run out to support a conservation planning effort that benefits the water users.

Report

Funding for State Parks Maintenance

February 21, 2007 - Despite a growing backlog in deferred maintenance at state parks (currently over $900 million) the budget provides no funding to address the problem. There is also a significant funding shortfall related to ongoing maintenance at state parks. To address these problems, we recommend using $160 million of Proposition 84 bond funds allocated to state park restoration and rehabilitation for deferred maintenance, and augmenting the department’s ongoing maintenance budget by $15 million, funded from fees.

Report

Wildland Fire Protection Expenditures

February 21, 2007 - The fire protection budget of the state’s forestry department (mostly funded from the state General Fund) continues to rise significantly. This reflects changing forest conditions fueling fire risk, increasing housing development at the wildland-urban boundary, and increasing labor costs. We make a number of recommendations to control the rising costs, including clarifying state and local roles for providing emergency services, modifying the criteria by which land is designated a state responsibility for fire protection, and enacting a fee on private landowners to partially cover the state‘s costs in providing fire protection services that benefit them.

Report

Implementation of "AB 32" Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006

February 21, 2007 - The budget proposes $36 million across several state agencies to implement 2006 legislation (AB 32, Nuñez) that sets objectives and provides a roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The Governor’s climate change budget proposals circumvent legislative direction, by moving prematurely to implement a market-based regulatory mechanism and assigning a role to the Cal-EPA Secretary that goes beyond coordination. There also is no long-term plan for funding these proposals, a concern since most of the proposed funding sources will run out in the next budget year.

Report

Budget Status of State Water Project

February 21, 2007 - We recommend that funding for the State Water Project (SWP), the state’s main water conveyance system connecting Northern and Southern California, be brought "on budget." This is because SWP’s current off-budget status makes it difficult for the Legislature to comprehensively address the state’s water policy issues, particularly in light of SWP’s increasing fiscal and programmatic ties to other state on-budget programs, such as the CALFED Bay-Delta Program.

Report

Flood Management Issues

February 21, 2007 - The budget reflects a major infusion of funding, mostly from bond funds, for flood management. We make a number of recommendations to ensure that a systematic approach is used to complete improvements and repairs to the state’s Central Valley flood control system, including requiring the Department of Water Resources to provide a plan for independent review and oversight of its flood-related capital outlay projects.

Report

Resources Bonds

February 21, 2007 - The budget proposes over $2.3 billion in bond funding for various resources programs, most of which comes from two resources bonds approved by voters in November 2006. The state would spend substantially higher bond amounts than in the current year, particularly for flood management. To ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the new bonds, we recommend that the Legislature set funding priorities to guide new programs created by the bonds; establish appropriate cost-sharing arrangements; ensure related programs are coordinated; and exercise oversight by holding hearings, establishing reporting requirements, and controlling administrative costs. review infrastructure

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Analysis of the 2007-08 Budget Bill, Resources Chapter

February 21, 2007 - Analysis of the 2007-08 Budget Bill, Resources Chapter

Report

Strengthening Public Safety of Waste Facilities and Surface Mines: Financial Assurances

April 26, 2006 - The state has long recognized its responsibility to protect the general health and safety of the people of California. To protect Californians from hazards posed by waste facilities and surface mines, the state’s environmental regulatory agencies require financial assurances from the owners/operators of these facilities-evidence that these parties have the financial capacity to restore public resources that they degrade. This report details California’s existing financial assurance requirements, examines shortcomings with the current financial assurance system, and recommends improvements. Adoption of our recommendations should decrease the likelihood that financial assurances will fail to serve their public purpose, thereby reducing the state’s exposure to significant financial risk in the future.