Governor’s 2010 Agenda: Bad News for the Environment

Today Governor Schwarzenegger unveiled his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. It’s clear that the Governor once again plans to use the state’s fiscal crisis as an excuse to gut California’s landmark environmental and public health protections. Here are three of his worst proposals:

First, he calls for allowing agency bureaucrats to revoke judicial oversight of the environmental review process for various development and transportation projects. That means these projects would essentially receive a free pass to violate California’s premier environmental law – the California Environmental Quality Act – because there would be no mechanism to ensure compliance. It also means that Californians would be unnecessarily exposed to environmental and health impacts and would be denied the opportunity to have a say in the future of their communities.

Second, he promotes new offshore oil drilling, threatening our renowned coastline for a trifling bit of new revenue. What’s worse, he continues to ignore the opportunity to raise substantially more revenue while protecting our environment by requiring big oil companies to pay their fair share for extracting oil from California, as they do in every other major oil producing state. Such an oil severance tax would contribute $1.8 billion to help the state balance its books, rather than the mere $100 million that proponents of the offshore oil drilling project claim it would bring to the state. Instead of giving Big Oil another opportunity to plunder our land and water for massive profits, the state should prioritize weaning our economy off oil and making sure that our coast remains protected.

Third, he wants to ax funding for one of the best tools we have to reduce global warming pollution – public transportation. In previous years, state funding for public transportation was eliminated completely, leaving local governments struggling to provide this essential public service. The courts determined that this was not what the voters had approved. Nonetheless, the Governor continues to propose new ways to raid these funds, eliminating mobility choices that save money and protect the planet.

The State Legislature will be taking up the Governor’s proposals as they begin to debate how to close a $6 billion hole in the current budget and craft next year’s budget. These flawed proposals must be rejected, and the Legislature must focus on solutions that truly solve California’s economic crisis instead of simply succumbing to the Governor’s ideological demands.