Tough guv says: keep Cali cool

Regulating greenhouse gases is good for the economy. That was the message California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave to Republican legislators, who pressed him last week to delay implementing the state’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). The governor said cutting jobs at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) — the agency charged with enforcing the law — would be a short-sighted way to save money in the state budget. “AB 32 is stimulating the economy by creating new opportunities,” said Lisa Page, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Schwarzenegger’s firm stance is a sign that he wants to leave a strong environmental legacy when he concludes his second term in 2011. He could have scored some points with his party and with powerful segments of the California business community by agreeing to delay the greenhouse gas rules. But instead the governor stayed on the green path.

Meanwhile, CARB is methodically moving forward with the scoping plan for AB 32, a draft of which is due in late June and a final version by the end of this year. More specific rules are to be developed in 2009. The first provisions of the law will start to bite in 2010. After listening to a public hearing on AB 32 in Sacramento last Friday, I continue to be impressed with the thorough state process and the smart agency staff involved. These civil servants are blazing new trails on how to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. When the rules are announced, no significant constituencies will be able to claim that they weren’t consulted.

New leadership in the state legislature will be key to sustaining support for the law. Here are some encouraging developments:

* Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), a legislator with a strong environmental record, is in line to become Senate President pro tem (effectively the majority leader) in December.
* Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), who wrote AB 32 as an Assembly member, is now running for State Senate.
* Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), former U.S. director of The Climate Group and former executive director of the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), is running for the Assembly.

All good to see in a state that took a chance on a “green” (read: inexperienced) actor/politician who now may be the “greenest” (read: enviro) governor in the land.

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