Voters to Decide Fate of California's Climate Law

Voters to Decide Fate of California's Climate Law

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Caveman 92223 — On the 2010 US Tour

California's secretary of state certified a ballot measure this week that would postpone California's climate change law until the state's employment outlook significantly improves.

Voters will decide in November whether California should sideline the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, until its employment rate, now at more than 12 percent, declines to 5.5 percent for more than a year -- a feat accomplished only three times in the past three decades.

Texas oil companies Valero Energy, Occidental Petroleum and Tesoro largely funded the measure, dubbed the California Job Initiative, collectively spending more than $1 million to secure nearly twice the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. 

"This initiative sponsored by greedy Texas oil companies would cripple California’s fastest growing economic sector, reverse our renewable energy policy and decimate our environmental progress for the benefit of these oil companies’ profit margins. I will not allow this to happen on my watch," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement Tuesday."

Opponents of AB 32 have long argued that the law would cripple the state at a time when it can least afford it due to the economic recession and gaping budgetary holes, pointing to studies showing additional job losses. Supporters slam the studies, while holding up analyses performed by the state showing the implentation of AB 32 would have a modest impact on California households.

Many are trying to cast the measure as a power grab by out-of-state polluters to circumvent California's clean air laws, but the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has complicated public perception of the industry and the way America gets and uses energy, a recent poll suggests. Fifty-eight percent of respondents to a CBS/New York Times survey said U.S. energy policy needs to be fundamentally changed, and 31 percent called for it to be completely overhauled.

AB 32 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020, which is more aggressive than a bill currently stalled in the U.S. Senate from Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). AB 32's centerpiece would be a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that would force polluters to buy and trade emissions permits while also reducing their carbon footprints. Energy efficiency and renewable energy would get a boost, while the state would also require cleaner transportation fuels.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Caveman 92223 — On the 2010 US Tour.