California’s Environment and Public Health Fall Prey to Governor’s Veto Pen

Governor Schwarzenegger’s green legacy was significantly battered by his veto pen this year as he rejected most of the top environmental bills on his desk, measures aimed at improving the quality of life for all Californians and boosting our economy through the creation of local and sustainable green jobs.

Included in the slaughter was a landmark package of bills designed to establish the first-in-the-nation 33% renewal energy standard. The major pieces of the package, SB 14 (Simitian) and AB 64 (Krekorian) were the result of countless hours of negotiations between a vast array of organizations and businesses interested in California’s energy policy. By not signing these landmark bills the governor has cost California an opportunity to send a strong message to Washington DC at a time when the nation is debating energy and climate policy.

State Parks also saw no mercy from the Governor and his menacing pen. After threatening to close parks throughout California before backing away and simply slashing the State Park’s budget to the bone, the Governor added salt to the wound by vetoing two critical bills aimed at protecting our state’s parks. Senate Bill 372 (Kehoe) and SB 679 (Wolk) would have increased protections for state parks at a critical time when efforts to dismantle our state’s natural heritage seem relentless.

The Governor also vetoed Assembly Member Ruskin’s Human Right to Water measure, AB 1242. This common sense legislation enjoyed bipartisan support and would have finally directed the state to prioritize funding to ensure all Californians have clean drinking water. And despite the dire need for new jobs in California, and the promise the new green economy holds in helping us out of this recession, the Governor vetoed a critical green jobs bill, AB 1404 (DeLeon). This would have ensured global warming emissions reductions and its generation of green jobs in California.

Adding insult to injury, Governor Schwarzenegger signed, SB 827 (Wright), which allows new polluting power plants to be built in Southern California without first getting verifiable credits that are supposed to help the region meet its clean air goals. This bill was heavily opposed by both the environmental and public health communities. The bill allows the plants to move forward in direct violation of an existing court order and will lead to an increase in toxic air pollution in the most polluted region of the state.

While the Governor deserves no praise for his actions this year, particularly as he still demands the legislature approve state funding for new massive dams as part of any water package, we are pleased with two bills that were signed. AB 1364 (Evans), a bill sponsored be the Planning and Conservation League, California Council of Land Trusts and the California State Parks Foundation, will ensure conservation projects affected by the freezing of state payments earlier this year will remain viable. Also, AB 920 (Huffman) allows customers who generate extra solar power to finally get paid to send that excess power back to the grid. Hopefully this measure will ensure even those with solar roofs find conservation economically smart.

Overall this year, the Governor’s green batting average is unimpressive. We hope that in his final year at the helm, the Governor will strive to up that average and leave California a better, greener state than he found it.