Opponents of AB 32 argue it is a job-killer
Monday, May 3, 2010 at 1:14 a.m.
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed his administration’s signature environmental law in 2006, he spoke of it as a jobs measure.
“Unquestionably, it is good for businesses,” he said then. “Not only
large, well-established businesses, but small businesses that will
harness their entrepreneurial spirit to help us achieve our climate
The measure, Assembly Bill 32, put California at the forefront in the effort to fight global warming, calling for the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a reduction of roughly 25 percent.
Four years later, the measure is under attack from some quarters as
a job-killer that will make it difficult for the state to compete
Today, opponents plan to submit signatures for a proposition on the
November ballot that would suspend the law’s provisions until the
state’s unemployment rate
— at 12.6 percent in March — drops to 5.5 percent or less for four
consecutive quarters. That has happened only twice in the past 11
years: from April 2005 through August 2007, and from April 1999 through
When Schwarzenegger signed the law in September 2006, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.8 percent.
The initiative effort is funded in large part by oil companies, which are affected because of the law’s effect on refineries.
“It’s going to be a long summer and into the fall,” said Anita
Mangels, a spokeswoman for proponents of the proposed change to the law.
If the initiative qualifies for the ballot and is approved by
voters, the law could be put on hold so long that the state might not
reach the 2020 deadlines.
The costs of the environmental regulations will send jobs elsewhere,
said Dorothy Rothrock, a lobbyist for the California Manufacturers
& Technology Association.
Manufacturers are already wary of the state’s high costs and strict regulations, she said.
“It’s not like we have headroom to impose new costs and stay as a
vibrant economy,” Rothrock said during a round-table discussion Friday
at the University of San Diego sponsored by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
Although 11.7 percent of the nation’s manufacturing capacity is in
California, just 1.2 percent of new manufacturing was located here over
the past two years, Rothrock said.
The state’s climate change law is far from the only thing behind
those statistics, said Scott Anders, who heads the Energy Policy
Initiatives Center at USD’s School of Law.
Regulators are looking for ways to deal with the question of jobs going elsewhere, he said.
More important, he said, is that the law’s opponents are not
considering the green jobs, new technologies and lower health care
costs that could result from curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
“There is a potential cost of doing nothing,” Anders said. “There’s a potential cost of inaction.”
The state is already moving toward implementing many of the law’s
goals, said Michael Murray, a lobbyist for Sempra Energy, parent
company of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.
He estimated that to get to 1990 emission levels, the state will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.
Of that, 85 percent will be achieved through existing or planned
measures, such as increasing the amount of solar and wind power,
improving energy efficiency and limiting pollution from cars and trucks.
That leaves about 15 percent that would be achieved through a
cap-and-trade program in which emission limits would be set for
businesses; those below the cap could sell the excess capacity as
credits to businesses over the limit.
“Every one of us wants to do it right,” Murray said. “Whether you
talk to the Air Resources Board or any of the stakeholders, we all want
to do it right, for what’s best for California.”
The problem is that California can’t make a difference by going it
alone, said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who sits on the
state’s Air Resources Board, which is charged with implementing the law.
He added that when the law was passed, the expectation was that others would follow, but that hasn’t happened.
it’s like gospel, if we come up with a new regulation, we’ll cause
California’s economy to respond in a wonderful way,” Roberts said.
“This is total nonsense.”
The costs of the environmental law are outweighing the benefits, said Bryan Bloom, who has a moving company in San Diego.
“We all want cleaner air, but it’s already to the point where the marginal benefits … are not worth it,” he said.
USD’s Anders said it’s unclear whether the climate law will hurt the economy.
“I’m not sure we can conclude there are no clean jobs being created or no clean-energy jobs,” Anders said.
Holly Lepre, vice president of CleanTECH San Diego, an industry
group working to develop a green industry cluster, said it is too soon
to assess the law’s local impact.
She said there are 700 companies locally that have spent more than $1 billion working on clean technologies.
“We see this as a tremendous opportunity,” she said.