Texas Oil Companies Fund Measure to Repeal CA Climate Law

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

(Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories by Streetsblog LA Editor Damien Newton on efforts to delay implementation of California’s groundbreaking climate legislation.)

In 2006, the California Legislature passed, and Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger signed, Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), a landmark law that
requires
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 set a precedent numerous states have followed subsequently. For transportation reformers and
environmentalists, AB 32 is important legislation that could
still be a "game changer" in the way California thinks about
transportation.

Thanks to a coalition of pro-business Republicans
and the oil industry, however, there is a strong push to place a measure on this
fall’s
ballot to postpone the implementation of AB 32 objectives. Critics of the climate bill cite the current economic crisis as a
valid
reason to delay trying to clean California’s air. Assuming opponents of AB 32 can gather a minimum of 433,971
valid signatures to qualify their measure for the November ballot, voters will be asked to vote to
"delay" the implementation of AB 32 until the state unemployment level
dips below 5.5%.

While former Gubernatorial candidate and current Congressman Tom McClintock
and
Assemblyman Dan Logue, the figureheads in the anti-AB 32 campaign, aren’t members of the oil lobby, a
recent New
York
Times article
revealed that oil giants Tesoro and Valero have
funded the anti-AB 32 measure 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 AB 32 is bad for the economy, saying the new ballot measure would be the culprit in damaging the bottom line, particularly in the clean technology field. "This initiative would destroy the clean energy economy," he said.
"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 overturning AB 32 would
be bad for supporters of alternative transportation. "AB 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 last week 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 limits.  The California Climate Change Portal hosts
a series of fact sheets
about the level of emissions created in California
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, Valero was named
one of the worst polluters
in the United States and was forced to
pay $711 million in environmental fines in 2005 alone.

  • John C.

    How clever… we all know that California unemployment will never drop below 5.5%.

  • John C.

    Or, more accurately, it won’t drop that low anytime in the near future. Especially if we legislate ourselves out of any potential green technology boom.