A bevy of energy bills\u2014including revivals of legislation from last session\u2014were introduced to increase gas pipeline safety and advance renewable power production, largely by easing the way for permitting. Two bills by Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro) and Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) seek to increase natural gas pipeline operation safety. AB 56 by Hill, whose district includes the site of the San Bruno blast, directs the California Public Utilities Commission to track gas pipeline repairs and upgrades on sections granted ratepayer-approved financing. Regulators are required to develop safety standards and a state pipeline safety program certification for natural gas pipelines. It also prohibits utilities from recovering from ratepayers any fines, penalties, or costs they have to pay when pipeline accidents occur due to negligence. Corbett\u2019s SB 44 directs the CPUC to develop pipeline safety standards on par with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations. State regulators also are required to give lawmakers a status report in July 2012. Other bills also were introduced. SB 16 by Senator Michael Rubio (D-East Bakersfield) seeks to expedite and facilitate the permitting of renewable energy and alternative energy transmission projects. \u201cWithout a clear deadline and a critical path to approval, renewable energy project construction schedules will continue to be delayed,\u201d Rubio stated. He added that the bill would \u201creduce the unacceptable unemployment levels afflicting\u201d the southern San Joaquin Valley. SB 35 by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) extends for one year the ratepayer-funded energy efficiency and renewables research at the California Energy Commission. Funding for this area of the commission\u2019s Public Interest Energy Research program is to be extended from July 2012 to July 2013. SB 37 by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) requires the Energy Commission to assess the need for liquefied natural gas in California. The lawmaker\u2019s previous efforts at mandating LNG \u201cneeds\u201d assessment were unsuccessful. SB 175 by Corbett directs state agencies that contract for photovoltaic systems to pay a 15 percent premium to firms that provide California-made PV panels. SB 284 by Senator Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) excludes from the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan solar and other alternative energy projects on public land in the desert area covered by the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Plan. AB1x 3 by Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez (D-Indio) extends a developer-friendly mitigation framework for solar projects sited within the deserts in Southeastern California under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan to wind and geothermal facilities. It also directs developers to pay a maximum $150,000 for agency permits governing threatened species. AB 15, also by Perez, creates a renewable energy workforce panel to focus on creating training and hiring opportunities in underserved communities. The California Renewable Workforce Readiness Initiative and its Green Collar Jobs Council are to establish the state Workforce Investment and Green Collar Jobs Boards. AB 232 by Assemblymember Linda Halderman (R-Fresno) exempts biomass equipment and facilities from sales tax. Feb. 18 is the last day to introduce legislation this session.