Enviros, Villaraigosa Slam Out of State Oil Companies for Threatening CA Greenhouse Gas Laws

3_5_10_pollution.jpgAir pollution over the Inland Empire. Photo: DanDC/Flickr

(editor's note: This is Part I of a two part series.  Next week we'll look specifically at how the repeal or delaying of this legislation would effect transportation and Livable Streets. - DN)

In 2006, the California Legislature passed, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed, A.B. 32, landmark legislation that would require the state to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. 

The legislation was the first of its kind in the United States, and while there has certainly been some eye rolling at the Governor’s jet-setting lifestyle; there’s almost no debate that reducing Greenhouse Gases is considered the central plank of the Governor's term in office. For transportation reformers and environmentalists, A.B. 32 is important legislation that could still be a “game changer” in the way California thinks about transportation.

However, thanks to a coalition of pro-business Republicans and the oil industry there is a strong push to place a measure on this fall’s ballot to “delay” the measure, citing the current economic client as a valid reason to delay trying to clean California’s air.  The measure would "delay" the implementation of A.B. 32 until the state unemployment level dips below 5.5%.

While the people officially pushing the ballot measure, former Gubernatorial candidate and current Congressman Tom McClintock and Assemblyman Dan Logue aren’t officially members of the oil lobby; a recent New York Times article revealed that oil giants Tesoro and Valero have funded the effort to get A.B. 32 on the ballot.  Neither firm will either confirm or deny their involvement.

Steven Maviglio, of Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs took exception to the idea that A.B. 32 is bad for the economy, "First of all, this initiative would destroy the clean energy economy.  There's more than $5 billion in venture capital, 3,000 businesses and 45,000 people employed in clean tech.  This would take a wrecking ball to the only flourishing part of the economy."

Mavigilio also pointed out that delaying or removing A.B. 32 would be bad for supporters of alternative transportation.  "A.B. 32 is the catalyst for a lot of smart growth planning and anti-pollution efforts.  This could derail any effort to have a smarter, less polluting transportation system."

Environmentalists concerned about the push-back from the oil industry were joined by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who commented yesterday on the ballot initiative via press release:

We are currently in the midst of a global climate change crisis that is not only a threat to our environment, but our economic and job markets as well.  Here in California, we have always been leaders and activists and I am deeply proud that we have taken aggressive steps to combat climate change head-on with environmental initiatives and legislation such as AB 32...

...We cannot afford to lose sight of the progress we have made because large, out-of-state companies are more interested in lining their pockets with profits than protecting our environment.

For his part, Governor Schwarzenegger hasn't spoken on the link between Texas oil companies and California environmental policy; but the state does have plenty of ammunition available to fight critics of its Greenhouse Gas efforts.  The California Climate Change Portal, hosts a series of fact sheets about the level of emissions created in CA and the economic benefits of converting to a cleaner economy.  You can read other opinions debunking what some term the McClintock/Logue effort at Calitics.

Meanwhile, one of the oil companies bankrolling the "delaying" effort, Vallero, was named one of the worst polluters in the United States and was forced to pay $711 million in environmental fines in 2005 alone.

Opponents of A.B. 32 have until April 24 to gather 433,971 valid signatures to qualify it for the November ballot.