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Tina Cannon Leahy


Wednesday, April 28, 2021, from 12:30 - 1:30 pm on Zoom.


Never let a good crisis go to waste: lessons from SGMA on the art of the possible



The story of how California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)—popularly pronounced as “Sigma”—is an example of how what occurs “overnight” can be a century in the making. California is frequently the United States’ leader in sustainability and progressive regulation. Sections of the State’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act were models for the modern federal Clean Water Act. The federal Clean Air Act provided California a preemption waiver that not only allowed it to set its own automobile emissions standards but empowered other states to choose between the stricter California standard and the federal standard. With a market share of over 8% of the total United States population, the State’s 2003 ban on brominated flame-retardants was effectively a nationwide ban. And in 2006, California took legislative action on climate change while congressional leaders were still nattering about whether global warming was related to human activities. Nonetheless, California was the last State in the nation to adopt a statewide system for groundwater regulation.



Tina Cannon Leahy is a Staff Counsel IV with the State Water Resources Control Board Office of the Chief Counsel. Her primary areas of focus are the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan updates and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) implementation. Before coming to the State Water Board, she was the Principal Consultant for the California Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee where, from 2010 through 2015 she served as the Assembly's water law and policy expert, including helping to draft SGMA. Prior to the Assembly, Ms. Leahy was Senior Staff Counsel at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife specializing in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta water operations and management, endangered species, and other water-related issues and permitting and an associate attorney with the law firm of Somach, Simmons, and Dunn counseling clients and litigating on water and natural resources matters including California Environmental Quality Act compliance and challenges. She is Chair of the California Lawyers Association (CLA) Governance Committee, an Advisor to the CLA Environmental Law Section, and Co-Chair of the Alumni Advisory Board for the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at her alma mater, the UC Davis School of Law.