I’d rather have a governor that said the right things about the environment, even if he acted to undercut his self-proclaimed goals, than one who said the most reactionary, retrograde and ignorant things. But why should I have to choose? Take Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who has gotten brownie points for bucking the Bush administration on global warming even though he is a Republican. Maybe it says something about the rock bottom expectations we have about anything a Republican says on the environment that some progressives have praised him. But he still acts like a typical Republican (and too many Democrats; let’s clean house there, too):
As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels the world exhorting countries to act quickly to reduce harmful gas emissions, his administration is helping California’s construction industry stall tough new air quality rules at home.
In public hearings and private negotiations, administration transportation officials are working to slow a planned crackdown by regulators on aging diesel construction equipment — among the state’s most noxious machinery and a major source of greenhouse gases.
The officials successfully lobbied a board appointed by the governor to delay voting on draft regulations for dealing with the polluters. The officials argued that the new rules, years in the making, were too tough on the construction industry — which is a major Schwarzenegger donor.
Last week, the governor fired the board’s chairman, who said he was let go after pushing ahead with aggressive pollution curbs. The administration said the chairman was fired because he wasn’t tough enough — a claim environmentalists find dubious. On Monday, the board’s executive officer quit with a sharply worded criticism of the administration.
The departed air board officials said they were frustrated by administration meddling in both the diesel construction equipment crackdown and the implementation of landmark legislation the governor signed last year to curb global warming.
It is not the first time the governor has made bold promises on the environment while his administration dragged its feet behind the scenes. Schwarzenegger has vetoed bills that would put new taxes on polluters, spur the development of alternative fuels and help clean the air. He has accepted $1 million in campaign cash from the oil industry, and he had threatened to veto the global warming bill unless it was made more business-friendly.
Although the governor says he wants to hold polluters more accountable, administration officials recently signaled lawmakers that Schwarzenegger may not support a separate legislative crackdown. Lawmakers are proposing to prohibit the dirtiest equipment from being used on public works projects bankrolled with state bond money approved by voters last year. (Los Angeles Times)
This is part of a detailed account of the firing of the head of the state agency that enforces environmental laws for failing to fire a too aggressive Board professional. Yesterday the professional, Catherine Witherspoon, quit:
In interviews with The Times, Witherspoon said there had been a pattern of interference by the governor’s top staff in favor of industry lobbyists seeking to weaken or stall air pollution regulations, including the state’s landmark global warming law and proposed regulations on diesel construction equipment and wood products containing formaldehyde.
“They were ordering us to find ways to reduce costs and satisfy lobbyists,” she said, adding that the governor’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, and Cabinet Secretary Dan Dunmoyer took the lead on pressuring the agency staff and board chairman.
Adding insult to injury, she said, members of the governor’s staff have publicly blamed her and Sawyer for not doing more — conduct she described as “Orwellian … a triumph of appearances over reality.” (LA Times)
The Governator has made a compelling public case that the technology forcing function of environmental regulations, like the proposed diesel rules, makes economic sense because it stimulates industries in California that design and produce the needed new equipment and retrofits. The industry lobbyists are complaining (don’t they always?) that the cost of retrofitting and new equipment would cost them piles of money. Assuming their estimates are right (not a plausible assumption given past track records, but let’s do it anyway), won’t those billions of dollars be spent making new jobs, new businesses, new industries and, lest we forget, a cleaner environment? Maybe not for the lobbyists’ clients, who not incidentally are the ones who spent millions greasing the Governor’s palm. But for the economy.
It’s not a matter of making environmental proposals “business-freindly.” It’s a matter of the Governor being too friendly with the proposals of some businesses: the ones who have bought him off.