Environment & Science

Proposition to decide fate of California's landmark emission bill

The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California.
The AES Corporation 495-megawatt Alamitos natural gas-fired power station stands on October 1, 2009 in Long Beach, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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The ultimate fate of Assembly Bill 32 will now go before California voters as a November ballot proposition that would suspend the bill until the state’s unemployment hits 5.5 percent or lower for a full year.

When California’s AB32 was passed in 2006 it was a landmark bill — it was the first and toughest carbon emissions control bill in the country, with the goal of controlling California’s greenhouse gasses and bringing the state closer than it had ever been to compliance with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

While the bill was lauded by environmental activists for its ambitious goals of bringing carbon emissions back down to 1990 levels, it was largely rejected by business groups who feared the negative economic impact of strict pollution controls.

“I want to protect the businesses in California,” Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, who wrote the proposition that would suspend the bill, told Patt Morrison today. “The bottom line is that if we want to survive as a state we want to support all jobs."

Proponents of AB32 contend that the number of green jobs created in the effort to comply with the strict regulations will help reduce the state’s high unemployment rate while generating interest from environmental investors and creating new sources of revenue.

Wade Crowfoot, west coast political director of the Environmental Defense Fund, is one of the main supporters of the bill.

“If you look at the facts of the matter,” Crowfoot told Patt Morrison today. “California has actually attracted $9 billion of clean [technology] investment in the last five years directly because of innovative clean energy policies like the policies of AB32. I think the facts speak for themselves that this is the brightest spot in our economy.”

Proponents of the ballot measure say California businesses struggling to stay afloat in the current economic climate feel that jumping through hoops to comply with environmental regulations will only further deplete limited resources and revenue.

Assemblyman Logue suggests that the bill will be a detriment to the state’s job woes, saying that for every green job created by the bill, California will lose two jobs in other areas.

“California should not go it alone,” said Logue. “If there is going to be a legislation it should be national legislation so we don’t drive businesses across state lines that hire people in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas because we want to be politically correct.”

He also cited Italy and Spain as leaders in the fight against carbon emissions, but said their success on the environmental forefront has come at a hefty price.

“Obama has been citing Spain [as an example] for the last five years,” said Logue. “But as we look at Spain as the gold standard for a green economy, they are on the verge of absolute bankruptcy. California's green jobs are 100 percent subsidized. You are asking taxpayers to prop up a business that can’t stand on its own."

With California’s unemployment rate hovering steadily around 12 percent, a major concern in the public’s mind is that the bill will eliminate jobs in a time when they are sorely needed.

Crowfoot argues the Assemblyman is using false information to bolster his assertions, saying green jobs will not affect the number of jobs which already exist in other fields.

“In the last recession, it was the only sector that experienced job growth amidst an economic downturn, and growth in one area won’t hurt the other,” said Crowfoot.

Crowfoot also agrees with environmental activist groups that say the bill will have to be aggressive because it is most likely not to be enforced to its fullest extent, but Logue thinks it is unnecessary for the state to take on such ambitious standards.