Gov. Gavin Newsom signs an executive order concerning electric vehicles on Sept. 23, 2020. (Photo: California Environmental Protection Agency)

The governor says it’s a crucial step to curb climate change and pollution — and will spur innovation. Plus: Tesla sues the U.S. government, a majority of Californians don’t want app-based drivers to be independent contractors and not everyone loves rent control.Welcome to the middle of the week! I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, and here is your daily spotlight on all things Golden State.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

Gov. Gavin Newsom orders California to ban new gas-powered cars by 2035

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announces an executive order on Sept. 23, 2020, that will have the state halt sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars by 2035. At right is California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols. (Photo: Daniel Kim, AP)

When 2035 rolls around, if you want to purchase a new gasoline-powered passenger vehicle in California, you’re going to be out of luck, according to an executive order signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The move was among a number of actions announced to lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution.

Owning, operating and selling previously owned gasoline-powered cars will still be allowed past 2035.

“Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state and I’d argue as a nation — for that matter from a global perspective — none is more important, none is more forceful than the issue of the climate crisis,” Newsom said.

Mandating that all cars sold in-state beginning in 2035 are “zero-emission” vehicles will result in more than a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80% reduction in certain toxic fumes present in vehicle exhaust, according to state predictions. Newsom’s order says that the state will need to greatly expand its charging infrastructure to support the surge in electric vehicles.

Got questions about all this?Here’s a handy Q&A.

Also on the environmental chopping block are new hydraulic fracking permits, which Newsom hopes to phase out by 2024.

A river of oil spills across the Cymric field near McKittrick, California, in June 2019. (Photo: Screenshot obtained by ProPublica and The Desert Sun.)

Hydraulic fracking is a technique in which water, sand or chemicals are injected into the earth to fracture formations and loosen up oil, which Newsom said accounts for about 2% of the state’s oil production. Newsom said while he lacks the power to end fracking, he plans to work with the legislature to legally phase out new fracking permits.

What the governor didn’t directly address was what the state planned to do about the process of steam fracking or high-pressure cyclic steaming, in which scalding steam, without chemicals, is injected below ground to fracture formations. This more widely used technique for extracting oil has been linked to worker and wildlife injuries and deaths and hundreds of oil spills.

Over the past two decades, Chevron and other oil companies have earned millions harvesting oil from spills linked to high-pressure cyclic steaming, according to a recent investigation by The Desert Sun and ProPublica.

Newsom and California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said a moratorium had been placed on steam fracking while studies are completed about whether it can be done safely. However, the moratorium only covers new permits for high-pressure cyclic steaming and does not affect oil companies with existing permits. The governor said a draft of the study on steam fracking would be complete soon.

New CSU chancellor makes history

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, Fresno State president Joseph I. Castro waves to the crowd before an NCAA college football game against BYU in Fresno, Calif. (Photo: Gary Kazanjian, AP)

Joseph I. Castro was named by the California State University trustees as the new chancellor of the CSU system on Wednesday, making him the first Mexican American and native Californian to lead the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

A grandson of Mexican immigrants who was raised by a single mother, Castro, 53, is a seasoned university administrator, having been president of CSU Fresno since 2013. Prior to that, he served as a professor of family medicine and vice chancellor of student academic affairs at the University of California, San Francisco.

“I’m excited and honored to be the first California native and first Mexican American to serve as a chancellor of the California State University,” Castro said. His voice quivered with emotion as he thanked his mother and his relatives, some of whom he said were watching a livestream of the CSU trustees’ meeting. To his family he said, “I love you all.”

Within the 23-campus CSU system, Latino students are the largest ethnic group at 43%, followed by white students at 22%, Asian students at 16% Asian and Black students at 4%.

Castro’s new job begins in January.

Edison to pay insurance companies $1.16B in Thomas Fire, Montecito mudslide lawsuits

Debris and mud cover the entrance of the Montecito Inn after heavy rain brought flash flooding and mudslides to the area in Montecito, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (Photo: Daniel Dreifuss, AP)

Southern California Edison announced on Wednesdaya $1.16 billion settlement with insurance companies over the 2017 Thomas Fire and 2018 Montecito mudslide disasters in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. As part of the agreement, Edison made no admission of wrongdoing or liability.

More than 100 plaintiffs, among them insurance carrier families and financial institutions, sued the utility company, alleging that its negligence caused the devastating fire and resulting mudslides.

The Thomas Fire burned for nearly 40 days, destroying 1,063 structures and claiming the lives of two people. Approximately a month after the fire started, heavy rains triggered mud, trees and rocks to slide off the hills above Montecito, destroying more than 100 homes and killing about two dozen people. The mudslide lawsuits alleged the disaster would not have happened if the Thomas Fire hadn’t stripped the vegetation from the hillside.

Investigators determined that power lines owned by Edison arced and made contact with one another in high winds, which caused “molten aluminum particles” to fall to the ground, where dry vegetation caught fire.

Wednesday’s announcement was the second settlement stemming from the Thomas Fire and mudslide litigation. In November, Edison agreed to pay $150 million to public entities in both counties over the incidents. 

“We are making significant progress toward resolving wildfire-related litigation,” said Pedro J. Pizarro, president and CEO of Edison’s parent company, Edison International.

In other Edison news …

Jesse Vasquez of the San Bernardino County Fire Department hoses down hot spots at the Bobcat Fire on Saturday in Valyermo, Calif. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP)

The Guardian reports that investigators are looking into the possibility that the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest in Los Angeles County history, was sparked by Southern California Edison utility equipment.

According to the article, Edison has surrendered a section of an overhead conductor from a transmission facility that was located near the origin of the fire. And last week, Edison told California’s Public Utilities Commission that this particular equipment had experienced an issue five minutes before the initial report of the fire on Sept. 6.

However, Edison spokesman David Song said cameras captured a more distinct timeline, showing smoke developing in the area before the Edison issue.

Tesla sues the U.S. government, and voters are skeptical about propositions 

A Tesla Model S plugged in and charging. (Photo: Tesla)

CNBC reports that California-based electric car maker Tesla is suing the United States government and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for imposing “arbitrary” tariffs on parts imported from China.

And while we’re on the subject of cars, the Los Angeles Times reported that a new poll shows Californians are not sold on the idea of letting Uber, Lyft and other app-based driving companies override AB 5 and employ their drivers as independent contractors.

Speaking of polls, according to a recent one of Californians, as reported by, only 37% of voters said they supported Proposition 21, which aims to give cities and counties more power to implement rent control in their communities.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: CNBC, The Guardian,, Los Angeles Times.

Read or Share this story: