Press Release

Senate Environmental Quality Committee Passes Senator Padilla’s Legislative Package Protecting the Tijuana River Watershed

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee passed two bills, Senate Bills 1178 and 1208, authored by Senator Steve Padilla (D-San Diego), which address corporate pollution poisoning California waters (Senate Bill 1178) as well as halt the development of a landfill that would only cause further harm in the Tijuana River Watershed (Senate Bill 1208).

For generations, billions of gallons of contamination, pollution, and wastewater, stemming from failing infrastructure, have ravaged California’s southern coastline. San Diegans are suffering from the health, economic, and environmental impacts of these continued transboundary flows.

This month, the Tijuana River Watershed was named in the 10 most endangered rivers in America, a list managed by environmental organization, American Rivers. The designation comes from an analysis of the hazardous industrial waste and raw sewage contaminating the river.

According to a study conducted by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, coastal water pollution transfers to the atmosphere in sea spray aerosol, which can reach people beyond just beachgoers, surfers, and swimmers increasing the risk of exposure and illness to a greater area of coastal communities.

While sewage treatment facilities exist on the river   the sheer volume of wastewater flowing into the river has far exceeded their capacity and overwhelmed any efforts to address the issue.  In December, Senator Padilla, chair of the Senate Select Committee on California-Mexico Cooperation and Dialogue, held a hearing to listen to federal officials, experts, local elected representatives, and the public about the efforts to address cross-border pollution. But, this is not the only source of pollution that the South Bay faces.

Over 15 years ago, private developers put a misleading measure on the ballot in San Diego County and secured the approval of a second landfill in the county’s general plan - bypassing local control measures and creating a truncated CEQA process that silenced local input and review. The landfill would be built less than 2 miles from the Tijuana River, squarely in the River’s already severely environmentally distressed watershed.

Following the testimony from the hearing and consultation with local leaders, Senator Padilla introduced two pieces of legislation to help mitigate the pollution.

 “This pollution threatens the very water we drink and the very air we breathe,” said Senator Padilla. “Our community cannot bear the brunt of this environmental disaster anymore. Our homes are being treated as a dumping ground for those seeking to make a quick buck and the community has paid the price for that corporate greed in business closures and hospital visits. California must stand up and hold polluters accountable. Business as usual at the border is over and done with.”

SB 1178 expands on environmental protections signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan that requires California companies that discharge waste outside California in a “manner that could affect the quality of the waters of the state within any region” to report those discharges. The bill would require large corporations of 2,500 or more employees doing business in California to publicly disclose their waste water discharges that can result in contamination of California watersheds. The measure then directs the State Water Resources Board Control Board (SWRCB) to create the “California Water Quality and Public Health Impact Surcharge” which shall quantify the costs of mitigating that contamination.  The company can opt to remedy the contamination itself or pay a fee to the State to do it on their behalf.  The fee will be assessed in coordination with the Franchise Tax Board and added as a surcharge to their tax bill. Funds from this new surcharge will be dedicated exclusively to mitigating the impact of those toxic discharges.

SB 1208 would prohibit a regional water board from issuing a waste discharge permit for a new landfill that is used for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste if the land is located within the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve or within an area that is tributary to the Tijuana River. The bill would also expand the definition of “landfill used for the disposal of nonhazardous solid waste” to also include a disposal site regulated by a regional water board as a Class II landfill.

SB 1178 passed by a 5 to 2 vote and SB 1208 passed by a 4 to 0 vote. Both bills now head to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: