Gov. Newsom again brushed off calls to declare a statewide drought emergency on Wednesday during a press conference. Newsom, along with his water resources director, has maintained that the state does not yet need emergency authorities to enact most drought measures. He said having a friendlier administration in Washington, D.C., has allowed for more flexibility and “real time” collaboration on drought preparation.
“The federal government plays a huge and outsized role, in terms of water policy and water allocation—and also pending litigation,” said Newsom, alluding to a series of lawsuits last year over the biological opinions governing Delta flows.
Newsom acknowledged the political responsibility involved in an emergency declaration.
“That comes with emergency authority that not everyone may want to invest in one individual,” he said. “It also comes with obligations that everybody else needs to be mindful of in terms of potential impacts.”
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This contrasts with Newsom’s initial pandemic responses in 2020, when his office issued numerous executive orders relating to the public health crisis while the Capitol shut down and lawmakers sheltered in place. Those actions have been the central target of a recall movement to oust the governor, which has likely gathered enough signatures to qualify for a vote this fall.
Newsom did not completely rule out a drought declaration and again said to expect more announcements in the days and weeks to come.
“I'm very mindful of the growing anxiety around water,” he said.