California: GOP pushing to weaken emissions standards

Michael Gardner | The San Diego Union-Tribune

While praising President Barack Obama’s moves to allow California to impose tighter controls on tailpipe emissions, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now finds himself under pressure from fellow Republicans demanding that he weaken the state’s broader greenhouse-gas laws as part of any deal to solve the budget crisis.

The possibility of compromising the state’s landmark standards to curb global warming has environmentalists fuming. They also worry that Democrats will be forced to trade environmental safeguards for GOP concessions on raising revenue.

“This is fiscal blackmail,” said Bill Magavern, state director of the Sierra Club. “They know they could never achieve these weakenings of environmental protections through the normal process.”

Republicans, however, say providing industry relief from potentially new costs to limit emissions will stimulate growth, provide jobs and help refill empty state coffers.

Schwarzenegger yesterday declined to commit to defending the state’s emission laws, suggesting that publicly drawing lines outside secret budget talks could be counterproductive.

“I don’t want to get into any of the details of our budget discussions, because it could blow up everything,” he said.

A key lawyer in state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office has circulated a memo warning that legislation drafted by Republicans as part of budget talks could “radically weaken” the state’s ability to enforce emission reductions and “violate the Clean Air Act.”

“These proposals would neither help the state’s fiscal crisis, nor provide any stimulative effect on the economy,” wrote Marc Le Forestier, supervising deputy attorney general who tracks legislation for Brown, a Democrat.

The memo surfaced just as Schwarzenegger and other environmental leaders were celebrating Obama’s directive to reopen California’s application for permission to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Bush administration refused to grant the waiver in December 2007.

“California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership . . . But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way,” Obama said.

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