As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Arnold Schwarzenegger is not that great on the environment

It's darn near impossible to compete with the PR machine of a global action superstar. If he says "I'm taking the lead in fighting global warming," most people will believe it - and never look at the details. So I applaud Senate Democrats for making the valiant effort to set the record straight.

Impatient with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's leadership in combating global warming, leaders of the Democratic-controlled state Senate plan to unveil a sweeping legislative package today that would impose new regulations on industries and government agencies.

The measures reflect long-standing tensions between Schwarzenegger and the Legislature over how best to reduce greenhouse gases produced by vehicles, electricity suppliers, landfills and other sources.

The point here is that Schwarzenegger has foregrounded market-based solutions that aren't even in AB32, the environmental law passed last year. Carbon trading is fine as far as it goes, but the Governor is completely stonewalling on other elements of the law, reasonable regulations that would go much further in stopping the creation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Leading Senate Democrats successfully fought inclusion of a mandatory market trading system in last year's law, Assembly Bill 32, but now contend that the Republican governor is promoting it while moving too slowly on regulation.

They and Assembly leaders also objected when Schwarzenegger signed an executive order last fall placing his appointee, state Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Linda Adams, in charge of climate policy. Legislators pointed out that AB 32 specifically gave the independent Air Resources Board authority for implementing the policy, not Cal/EPA.

That's called breaking the law, and when the President does it with a signing statement, it's a subversion of democracy. For some reason, when the star of "Last Action Hero" does it, fugheddaboutit because he's practically a Democrat? Wrong.

It's good to see Don Perata being this forceful.

"The implementation of Assembly Bill 32 is getting bogged down in arcane discussions over intercontinental trading schemes, 'carbon markets' and free 'credits'…. That may work for Wall Street traders and Enron economists, but it doesn't work for Californians."

According to drafts of the bills obtained by The Times, the proposed regulations would ban methane releases from garbage dumps and sharply curtail black carbon spewed from trucks, school buses and construction equipment.

Utilities could be ordered to increase the amount of energy acquired from renewable sources to 33% from 20%.

State and local transportation agencies would be required to draw up plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions in their jurisdictions, funded in part by bond money approved by voters last year.

"Senate Democrats are unveiling new bills to ensure our climate program actually cleans up the air, reduces asthma and reduces greenhouse gases without market gimmicks and trading schemes," Perata said.

If Schwarzenegger wanted to only solve climate change through market-based solutions, he shouldn't have signed AB32. There were regulatory standards set into that bill on which the governor is simply dragging his feet in favor of soaking in the adulation.

The bottom line is that if you give business an opt-out, they're pretty likely to opt out. And without applying regulatory pressure, they can cap and trade to their heart's content, but still spew pollution into the air, whether in California or elsewhere. The Chamber of Commerce will not support any regulatory standards; they want to give their corporations a convenient out. Unless cap-and-trade is global, it's ineffective. You need something with real teeth.

Interesting that Fabian Nuñez, who was instrumental in crafting AB32, was fairly noncommital on the Senate's aggressive approach.

A Nuñez spokesman was noncommittal, saying, "The pioneering global warming bill we passed last year with the governor's support is the gold standard in reducing greenhouse gases. If these measures dovetail into what we've done, are practical and don't hinder the process that's been hammered out, then they may well win support in the Assembly."

The governor (and maybe the Speaker) are likely to skate on this, considering that the image is implanted in everybody's mind that they are pro-environment. But when you look at the facts, it's hard to actually believe that.

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