Governator: a Green Giant?
As Schwarzenegger signs high-profile eco-protection bills, key measures sit on his desk.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger again showed his green leanings earlier this week when he, along with governors in Oregon and Washington, announced an agreement to improve Pacific Ocean health.
Schwarzenegger joined Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire via satellite from the California and World Ocean Conference in Long Beach. Together, the three pledged to press the federal government for additional funding to combat threats to the ocean, such as pollution, climate change and declining fisheries.
“Just as our western states have started to work together to fight global warming and protect our air, we now join forces to make sure we are doing everything in our power to maintain clean water and beaches along our coast,” Schwarzenegger said.
“No amount of PR will help unless the companies are committed to taking responsibility and taking action.”
Later that day, the Republican governor signed seven bills intended to improve water quality and protect the ocean, including AB 2485 by Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones and Central Coast Assemblyman John Laird, which beefs up protection for sea otters and other marine mammals.
Earlier this month, Schwarzenegger, who reportedly told Robert Kennedy Jr. that he intends “to be the greatest environmental governor in the history of California,” struck a deal with Democratic leaders in the Legislature to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent under the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB 32.
It’s almost enough to make tree-huggers want to vote Republican. Almost. The real test, according to environmentalists, lies in the slew of other green bills sitting on the Hummer-driving governor’s desk, awaiting his signature.
“We’re obviously very happy that he’s committed to signing AB 32,” says Natural Resources Defense Council’s Victoria Rome, “however, there are some other bills that do have opposition. We hope that he will come down on the side of the environment and public health. It remains to be seen what he will do.”
More than a dozen green bills now sit at the mercy of Schwarzenegger’s pen. One would require daycare facilities to notify parents about nearby pesticide applications; another would establish a bio-monitoring program to measure levels of harmful chemicals found in Californians. A third would pump more money into the cash-strapped Department of Fish and Game.
There are several other bills that would reduce emissions and curb global warming. “The most important from our perspective,” Rome says, “is SB 1368.”
SB 1368, authored by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, would reduce coal consumption by setting emissions standards for the utility industry.
“Another big one, AB 1012, requires half of all new cars
sold in California to run on alternative fuels by 2020,” Rome
says. “We’ve got to get started on producing both the
infrastructure and the vehicles that can run on alternative
• • •
Two additional bills by Laird would conserve water. AB 2496 would require new toilets to reduce water use and AB 1881 would set standards for landscape irrigation equipment and prevent homeowner associations from banning low-water using plants.
Laird calls AB 2496 “probably the major water conservation bill of the legislative session.” He says he doesn’t know which way the governor is leaning on either of these two bills.
The same goes for many other environmental bills that won approval by the Legislature. Schwarzenegger’s office isn’t saying what he will do. But he’s only got about a week to take action on these measures.
Another bill on Schwarzenegger’s desk, SB 927 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would impose a $30 fee per 20-foot container at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. It’s expected to raise about $500 million a year. The money would then be used to mitigate air pollution around those ports, fund rail improvements and improve port security.
Gary Patton, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, says this bill is important from an environmental justice perspective.
“This bill is so important because the communities around these ports are truly overwhelmed by the environmental impacts association with this trade,” Patton says. These impacts include smog, congestion and the like. “The Lowenthal bill says business is going to do something about these impacts. Business is going to start paying for them.
“It’s not a little policy statement. This is a significant contribution from polluting industries to curing pollution problems and community problems. If the governor signs it, you can say, ‘Hey, he really did something there, that’s pretty good.’”
Patton is also following Perata’s greenhouse gas performance standard bill.
“AB 32 is the bill everybody knows about,” Patton says, referring to the Global Warming Solutions Act. “But Perata’s bill is vitally concerned with the exact same thing, and it puts some immediate teeth into the effort.
“When you look at these bills, if the governor signs them, he ought to be considered to have done something strong for the environment. If he doesn’t sign them, he is indicating that his heart is with the special interests.”
|THE WEEKLY TALLY||250,000||
Percent of California farmworkers with no insurance in 2003-04. Source: 2005 California Sample of the National Agricultural Workers Survey.