County has stake in climate change policy, air official says |

County has stake in climate change policy, air official says

One of the people working most closely with controversial climate change law AB 32 told an audience in Nevada City that foothills residents have a strong vested interest in fighting global warming.

“We (in California) have the smoggiest rural areas in the country,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, at a talk Wednesday. “The highest ozone readings in the greater Sacramento area are in Nevada City.”

Nevada County bears the brunt of smog emissions from larger metropolitan areas, said Nichols, who was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 and heads an agency that employs more than 1,000 people in California. Most of the board’s work involves regulating the automobile industry to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

AB 32, also called the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,” aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Critics say it imposes onerous regulations that slow economic growth – at a time when the economy is floundering.

The legislation is under fire from Proposition 23 – a measure designed to suspend the AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent and stays there for one year. Prop. 23 will appear on the November ballot.

Nichols answered a handful of audience questions about AB 32, but said she could not take a stance on Prop. 23.

While California’s emissions are a small contribution to the global pollution problem, Nichols said AB 32 could help foster a budding “green” technology industry that would ultimately bring more money to California.

“We believe we can pioneer solutions and technology that will be attractive” to the rest of the world, she said.

The lecture was not an official Nevada City-sanctioned event, and Nichols spoke free of charge.

Her lecture may be the beginning of an educational series on science-related policy issues, according to Mayor Robert Bergman, who co-organized the event with Nevada City resident and oceans researcher Judith Kildow.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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