Logue, oil firms leading assault on climate bill | TheUnion.com

Logue, oil firms leading assault on climate bill

Dave Moller, Senior Staff Writer
and Associated Press

Four years ago, California earned accolades for adopting a law that would slash its greenhouse gas emissions and serve as a model for national climate change legislation.

Now Nevada County’s state Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, is battling the plan, asking that it be delayed until California’s current jobless rate is cut by more than half with his California Jobs Initiative.

Under the climate change measure, oil refineries, manufacturers, cement plants, utilities and other carbon polluters are to begin cutting their emissions in 2012.

It is the first economy-wide cap on emissions in the nation, obligating California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, about 30 percent from the levels projected if there were no climate regulations.

With the state mired in a crippling recession, the law that once looked like a landmark achievement is under assault. The regulatory effort that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger set in motion is facing a political backlash and could come to an abrupt halt in the months ahead.

Recently Schwarzenegger has begun urging air regulators to take a go-slow approach, but he has vowed to fight Logue’s ballot initiative, which would do just that. To see the initiative, log on to http://www.jobs2010CA.com/.

A coalition of businesses, financed largely by three Texas oil companies, is funding Logue’s ballot petition.

Logue said this week the oil companies funding did not bother him in the least, because his stop-gap initiative is about saving jobs during a recession.

“I solicited money from everyone,” Logue said.

The ballot petition is expected to qualify for the November ballot, with taxpayer groups, businesses and oil companies contributing nearly $1 million so far to get signature gatherers on the streets.

The bulk of that money has come from Texas-based oil companies. Valero Services Inc. of San Antonio, has given $500,000. Tesoro Companies of San Antonio and World Oil Corp. of Houston have given $100,000 a piece.

“They have refineries in California that employ thousands of people,” Logue said. “The oil industry provides 750,000 jobs for California and that’s a lot of working families.”

Logue estimated at least one million jobs would be lost from firms not able to meet new emission standards.

“I have (business) people come into my office every day who say they fighting for their lives,” Logue said. “It boils down to making the economy healthier again before we drive off a cliff.”

One of those businesses already impacted is Robinson Enterprises, the energy and timber firm in Nevada City built by Lowell Robinson.

“This has hit us really hard,” Robinson said. “We had to get rid of 40 pieces of equipment.”

Some of those were $50,000 logging trucks which won’t comply with the new standards, Robinson said. He can’t sell them in other states due to the bad economy.

Robinson said he agreed with Logue that the new regulations should be eased until the economy rebounds.

“We’re hurting real bad right now because of the economy,” Robinson said. “Our business is about 30 percent of what it usually is.”

A recent and study by the dean of the business school at California State University, Sacramento concludes the law could cost 1.1 million jobs.

That study, which also is a key element of the initiative campaign, has been discredited by the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst.

The California Air Resources Board, the entity charged with implementing the law, estimates climate regulations will promote investments in clean energy and will reduce California’s overall fuel expenses $3.8 billion by 2020.

Yet it also could lead to higher energy prices because utilities and oil and gas companies are among California’s top carbon emitters.

Valero spokesman Bill Day said the initiative gives California voters a “chance to delay the detrimental economic effects” of the climate regulations, which are slated to go into effect in 2012.

Valero has more than 1,600 employees in the state and has a vested interest in keeping California’s economy strong, Day said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Petition backers say California cannot afford to impose environmental regulations that would raise utility bills and fuel prices and cost jobs. Republican lawmakers say the law gives companies another reason to flee California or locate elsewhere when they decide to expand.

That may be an appealing message to voters who are frustrated with high unemployment, continuing home foreclosures, and an ongoing state budget crisis that has forced deep cuts to social services, public schools and higher education.

“We need to try to heal our economy before we travel a road we’ve never traveled before,” said Logue. “Since this is going to have such a huge effect on every person of California, what’s wrong with the public being able to weigh in and decide if this is what they want?”

The state’s dismal economy – hit by the nationwide foreclosure crisis and bank failures – also has given Schwarzenegger pause.

He has urged regulators to tread cautiously as they write the rules to oversee a carbon market in California for the companies that will be asked to cut their emissions.

In a March 24 letter to the California Air Resources Board, the governor suggested the state initially give away carbon credits as a way to avoid high costs to regulated industries.

That idea has been criticized by environmentalists, who argue that oil companies, cement plants and other polluters ought to pay to cut their emissions.

Nevertheless, Schwarzenegger has ruled out any call to suspend the law, the centerpiece of his environmental legacy.

“I think that the California people are outraged about the fact that Texas oil companies … are coming to California and trying to change laws and policies in California,” Schwarzenegger told reporters recently, after touring an exposition of Sacramento-area businesses considered environmentally friendly.

The Union Staff Writer Kyle Magin contributed to this article.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com


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