Former Governor Jerry Brown campaigning last year during his landslide election as California attorney general in this NWN video. Some Republican conservatives are trying to leverage passage of the state budget to block his move to have greenhouse gas emissions addressed in local planning processes.
As the struggle over the state budget continues, one stumbling block is a move by some state Senate Republicans to block the ability of Jerry Brown to file lawsuits on greenhouse gas emissions at the local level.
Such lawsuits, brought by environmental groups and Attorney General Brown, the former governor of California, would under the California Environmental Quality Act get counties to consider greenhouse gas emissions in their planning processes in furtherance of the state’s landmark climate change law. Although Brown has sent warning letters to several localities, he has filed only one such lawsuit, against San Bernardino County.
The conservative move comes amidst the backdrop of a brand-new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). This poll shows that support among California voters for strong action on the environment and climate change is, if anything, on the rise. It spans Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Demand for more action from every level of government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is strong, with upwards of 60% of Republicans looking for more. Indeed, while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval rating among voters is essentially unchanged — 59% now to 61% a few months ago — his environmental rating has gone down in the more demanding atmosphere. Most Californians believe that climate change is already underway.
Meanwhile, state Senate Republicans — all of whom opposed the very popular climate change law authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and signed by Schwarzenegger last year — are on a very different track from voters, including Republican voters.
Led in part by termed-out state Senator Tom McClintock, the California right-wing’s hero who has nonetheless lost all four of his races for statewide office, some Republicans are saying that Brown wants to use the law to stop development in California. That he would block highway construction under last year’s big infrastructure bonds package. That he would stop dams from being built, because they require cement and the production of cement leads to the emission of greenhouse gases. That Brown is responsible for all the state’s woes for shutting down highway construction during his governorship.
Familiar arguments from the campaign last year, as it happens. And rejected in that campaign, as Brown won the attorney generalship by the biggest landslide in any contested race, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s devastation of the hapless Democrat, Phil Angelides.
I spoke with the attorney general the other day. He insists that he is not against highway construction. Nor is Brown against building water storage facilities. “Of course we need more highway construction with all these people here now,” he said. “We need more water storage to capture the early run-off with global warming. The question is where.”
“I was the governor who got a Peripheral Canal bill through the Legislature, so don’t tell me I’m against water. This stuff McClintock is saying is ridiculous. And there were more miles of highway built in my administration than during the 16 years of George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. There are a lot of rhetorical builders out there. But we are going to have to address growth in this state.”
His goal, he notes, is to make sure that counties account for greenhouse gas emissions in their planning processes. Within reason, it’s up to them to come up with a plan to do so. In fact, he held a settlement meeting over the weekend with San Bernardino county supervisors.
As the debate got more heated yesterday, Brown hit back hard, saying: “It is an outrage that a small group of Republican senators would gut California’s Environmental Quality Act as the price of their voting—a month late—on this year’s budget. Their proposal would profoundly undercut the positive efforts of cities and counties to reduce greenhouse gases and fight global warming.
“It is the constitutional responsibility of the Attorney General to enforce all the laws of California, including our ground breaking environmental laws. California has a proud history as being the unquestioned leader in the fight to control global warming. We should not let a few Republican state senators—all of whom opposed the Global Warming Solutions Act—turn back the clock with this misguided and retrograde maneuver. It represents global warming denial at its worst.”
Brown, of course, won the biggest landslide victory of any contested statewide race last year, defeating Republican Chuck Poochigian, a former state senator and avowed opponent of efforts to combat the greenhouse effect, 57% to 38%.
Brown sued the state’s largest county in terms of size, San Bernardino County, to force it to address greenhouse gas emissions in planning decisions, and has sent letters urging such consideration to Sacramento, Santa Clara, San Diego, Kern, Fresno, and Yuba counties. He’s also urged Contra Costa County, home of the large Chevron oil refinery, to deal with emissions linked to a future expansion.
Some Senate Republicans, backed by oil industry and development allies who’ve also contacted Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office, want a delay of any such efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions until after the California Air Resources Board has finished developing and promulgating the specifics of the state’s plan, which is as much as five years away.
But Brown argues that local governments can and should begin now to address the impact of development decisions that they are making now. “These projects can add tremendously to the build-up of greenhouse gases. All I’m saying is that they need to address it and begin coming up with creative solutions. All that carbon is going to be in the atmosphere for a long time.”
Marin and Orange counties, for example, have begun to address greenhouse gas emissions in their planning processes.
But it may all be moot. Just as Senate Republicans have struggled to agree on their list of budget cuts, long in the making, so, too, have they yet to come up with the language dealing with this.
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