Kamala Harris (D)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-A proposed ballot initiative that would amend California's landmark greenhouse gas law would help avert anticipated job losses in the state's beleaguered manufacturing sector, an industry spokesman said.
The business-backed measure would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act until the state's unemployment rate drops significantly for a year-long period. The climate-change law sets increasingly stringent caps on greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a 25 percent reduction by 2020.
Under the law known as AB 32, the first mandatory emissions caps are set to begin in 2012, at least for significant sources of greenhouse gases such as power plants and oil refineries.
If allowed to go forward, it could be the death knell for scores of manufacturing jobs in the Golden State, warned Gino DiCaro of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, one of many trade groups supporting the AB 32 rewrite.
In a posting Tuesday on the business and politics blog Fox & Hounds Daily, DiCaro said implementing the far-reaching law during these rocky economic times would be a mistake.
Rather, he said, AB 32's implementation "should come when our economy is flourishing and the rest of the country is on board" with curbing the emissions that some scientists say are warming the planet.
Suspending the law would forge "a path to improve our economy first through job growth ... and a way to see if the rest of the country will follow with their own global warming mandates," DiCaro said.
He noted that even in the absence of greenhouse regulations, California has lost 34 percent of its manufacturing jobs since 2001, when the state was home to one of every 16 new or expanded manufacturing facilities in the nation.
Last year, California had one of every 40 of the facilities, marking a 60 percent decline.
"We must turn this around in 2010," DiCaro said. "A growing manufacturing sector is the economic piece California needs most."
The group behind the effort to suspend AB 32 -- the California Jobs Initiative -- estimates the law, as written, would ultimately cost 1.1 million jobs in the state.
On Tuesday, the group submitted about 800,000 voter signatures, or twice-as-many necessary, to qualify their measure for the Nov. 4 statewide ballot. DiCaro said the volume of signatures submitted "makes clear that the California voters don't want to go-it- alone on costly greenhouse gas reductions."
If approved by voters, the ballot measure would require that the state unemployment rate sit below 5.5 percent for at least four consecutive quarters before AB 32 regulations could be implemented.
Since 1976, there have been just three periods when California's unemployment rate has remained below 5.5 percent for four or more quarters, according to Employment Development Department figures.
Kamala Harris, the Democratic frontrunner in the state attorney general race, is a vocal supporter of AB 34. Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, told Legal Newsline that retooling the law would "amount to an economic and environmental disaster."
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 was signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, when California's unemployment rate was just 4.8 percent. In March, the jobless rate was 12.6 percent. California's unemployment rate has stayed above 5.5 percent since July 2007.
This week, Schwarzenegger said he stands by the law, vowing to fight the initiative, backed financially by, among other companies, Texas-based gasoline refiners Valero Corp. and Tesoro Corp.
Change in the law, he said, is being sought by "greedy oil companies who want to keep polluting in our state." The measure is also supported by the California Republican Party.
On the other side of the issue is Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition of environmental and civic groups opposed to changing the greenhouse law.
The coalition's honorary chairman is George Shultz, a Republican and former U.S. secretary of state. Decrying the ballot measure, Shultz hailed AB 32 as California's "innovative effort to stimulate movement toward cleaner and more secure energy."
"This misguided proposition will seriously harm our effort to encourage the growing entrepreneurial ventures that hold the promise of important change toward cleaner energy," he said.
Shultz warned that if approved by voters the ballot measure would also undermine efforts to help break U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
The group's spokesman, Steven Maviglio, has charged that the ballot measure's organizers are actually working to repeal the law, not just put the brakes on its implementation, as they say.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is outlined in Division 25.5 of the California Health and Safety Code, beginning with §38500.