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Governor Slips a Notch
in Environmental Progress Report
Schwarzenegger Loses Points
Sierra Club California marked the two year anniversary of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's election by issuing its second annual progress report for the State's top public official. The group gave Governor Schwarzenegger mixed reviews and concluded that he slipped a notch in the past year because of behind the scene moves that favored developers and special interests at the expense of the environment.
The full report and analysis can be found at: www.sierraclubcalifornia.org.
"Last year we concluded that Governor Schwarzenegger was a pale shade of green," said Bill Allayaud, Legislative Director for Sierra Club California. "This year, he's looking a bit paler. We urge the governor to spend less time raising money from polluters and more time working with the legislature to protect California's air, water, coast, and open spaces."
Added Allayaud, "Too often Governor Schwarzenegger has used his muscle to help big developers and other special interests while putting more of our land and water at risk. While he is certainly no George W. Bush, who is hostile to environmental values, Schwarzenegger has not delivered on what Californians want for the environment, let alone his own campaign promises."
Sierra Club California examined the governor's record in all relevant areas: appointments, administrative actions, legislation, budget, and help with federal issues. It looked at all of the subject areas that constitute the environmental arena, such as air quality, energy, coastal protection, forestry, toxics, and water quality and supply, and it revisited the governor's statements, policies, and actions from the first two years of his term and from his Action Plan for California's Environment.
In counting Sierra Club California's requests to sign or veto bills, he agreed with their position 56% of the time in 2005. In contrast, he has rarely shown a willingness to buck the industries that consistently seek to weaken environmental protections and that fill his campaign coffers. For example, of the sixteen bills designated by the California Chamber of Commerce as their highest priority to kill in the past two years, he signed only one and vetoed the other fifteen.
Sierra Club California gave the Governor high marks for his sponsorship of legislation to put solar power on a million California roofs and for his leadership in the effort to curb global warming. The group also applauded Schwarzenegger for taking action to address looming flood dangers in the Central Valley and to oppose efforts by President Bush and Congressman Richard Pombo to lift the 24year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off California's coastline.
Those achievements, however, were overshadowed by more potentially far reaching, though less publicized decisions to aid developers, energy companies, big corporate farms, and other polluter interests. Chief among them were the California Performance Review and the Governor's Reorganization Plan One, which would have seriously diminished the state's ability to carry out environmental stewardship and would have given more influence to private sector lobbyists rather than experts and citizens. Sierra Club California also leveled criticism at the Governor's attempts to exempt developers from California's landmark planning laws and to restrict communities from protecting farmland and open space.
The group disapproved of the Governor's nomination of former energy industry lobbyist Cindy Tuck as chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, which is considered to be one of the most important environmental posts in the nation. The California Senate rejected Tuck's nomination in September. Also, in an area that he claims to be one of his strongest, protection of our coast, he vetoed budget funds for the Coastal Commission and continues to make appointments to that body that do not follow the guiding principles of the Coastal Act.
"We think Governor Schwarzenegger can do better and this is the perfect opportunity for him to start," said Allayaud. "Californians overwhelmingly want their leaders to safeguard the state's water, air, and land, and they want the environment to be treated as a nonpartisan issue. If Schwarzenegger lives up to his promise to be an environmental champion rather than courting polluters and developers for their campaign contributions, he'll earn the broad support of Californians."