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Bureaucratic Arrogance! Mary Nichols Ends CARB Meeting When Public Comments Disagree With The Board

CARB has been criticized by many observers for being an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy. However, Chairman Mary Nichols took even her critics by surprise Friday when she unceremoniously shut down CARB's cap and trade hearing after too many citizens got up to criticize her plans.


In our Constitutional Republic, governmental agencies hold hearings to solicit input from the People.  At CARB however, Mary Nichols announced she was "disappointed," that after she had "invited" the people to a hearing, that they would have the audacity to criticize her plans. Her announcement was met with dismay by the audience, many members of which had driven long distances for the chance to share their opinion.

Mary Nichols ends the meeting.  A  re-cap of the meeting is told in the essay below.

Thursday May 24th: A group of California citizens concerned about property rights and individual liberty, and the state’s budget and business climate took time off work and family commitments and made long drives to Sacramento to give public input at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) meeting on how to “invest” the “windfall profits” that will come with CARB’s planned Cap and Trade program. The carbon trading scheme has been devised by the Board as a means of meeting the mandates of AB32--a statute which requires California to lower statewide greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. CARB’s Cap and Trade auctions are scheduled to be unleashed on California businesses in August of 2012. However, the August event will only be a dry run. The real auction has been postponed until after the election; likely to mitigate any negative backlash that may occur as a result of this new taxing scheme.

On the dais Thursday afternoon sat CARB’s extraordinarily powerful and unelected Board chair Mary D. Nichols. Her Board comrades attending the meeting included: Doreen D’Adamo, Hector De La Torre, Daniel Sperling, Sandra Borg, Ken Yeager, John Balmes, Fran Pavley (author of AB32 & SB375), Richard Gordon, and Karen Finn.

The meeting began at 1:30PM. Fourteen individuals, on two separate panels--each individually selected and invited by CARB--were invited to speak to the CARB members during the first two and half hours of the meeting. The panel members were asked to give their ideas on where the “profits” (e.g., the taxes) from the carbon trading scheme should be spent.

Most of the individuals on the two panels represented nongovernmental organizations closely aligned with government, and advocating for more “climate change” regulation. They, not surprisingly, strenuously argued for money to be directed to their favored research projects and public-private-partnership subsidies, while urging the Board to continue and strengthen their efforts to fight against global warming--global cooling--or, man-caused climate change due to fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide respiration: There were a couple of business-minded people who asked for money to be used to help businesses invest in research and development, or other subsidies that would help businesses reach the goal of lowering their emissions.  Then there were the disadvantaged neighborhood or Social/Environmental Justice advocates that wanted the money to be invested in low income minority urban neighborhoods. 

California’s two climate change statutes, AB32 and SB375, require a substantial portion of money to be directed to urban neighborhoods and disadvantaged communities. One of the invited panelists had the idea of creating a Green Bank. That seemed to intrigue the CARB members because they asked the most questions about this topic. This would be a quasi-public entity that would “loan” money to green companies whose business models are sufficiently uneconomically viable that they are unable to secure funding in the private marketplace. Perhaps Solyndra can be resuscitated to receive funds from California’s proposed new Green Bank.

While the invited guests were speaking the board members, up on the dais, only seemed to be partially listening. In fact, Hector De La Torre got to the meeting near the end of the second panel, and Assemblymember Fran Pavley, the author of AB32, left while the invited guests were still speaking.The public comment period began at the scheduled time, two and a half hours into the meeting. According to express statements made by CARB staffers before the meeting to people filling out requests to speak, the Board planned the meeting to run into the early evening in order to hear EVERY citizen who wanted to speak. Everyone who filled out a speaker card would have an opportunity to be heard.

Virtually all of the initial speakers during the first portion of the public comment period were from ardent proponents of the legislation who simply wanted to ask that more money be directed to their favored interests. It’s unclear whether this was because the NGO proponents of the bill arrived early to sign up for initial public comment slots, or because board chair Mary Nichols shuffled the speaking cards to make sure we heard the favored constituencies first.

During the public comment period, the CARB board members on the dais rarely looked or made eye contact with the speakers--rather looking down at their computers or smart phones, too distracted with their own personal affairs to even pretend to be listening to the public input. It was amazing how members of the board weren’t even listening to the “public” who represented NGO’s who work in close concert with CARB in seeking sweeping irreversible changes to the lives of Californian citizens at an immense cost.

Forty minutes into the public comment seven out of the eleven CARB members had left the meeting for good. By approximately 4:45PM only three CARB members were present, and they did not even pretend to be listening. By this time, the public comment had begun to represent a broader selection of public opinion, as citizens urged caution about the risks, unknowns, and even legality of the carbon trading scheme. At this point in the meeting my public comment was going to be--I want a grant to purchase Legos for my son so he can build me a zero emission Lego car. I was just curious if that would even register with these people. Mary Nichols probably would have listlessly said thank you and called another name.

Just before 5:00PM, Board chair Mary Nichols, who had increasingly appeared impatient with each commenter who didn’t offer gushing praise for CARB, its carbon trading program and climate change regulation, abruptly called the public comments to a close. She angrily added that she was disappointed that some people in the public comment period took time to disagree with the cap and trade program. She intimated that the meeting had stopped being useful, and decided to call it quits. At this point, only a small portion of the non-NGO public attendees who had asked to speak had been afforded an opportunity to do so.

Many people in the audience were stunned with this bureaucrat’s display of arrogance and self-importance. The dam broke, and righteous indignation began pouring out. Citizens who had driven hours to get there, had quietly, and respectfully sat through the meeting for several hours began to call out, “How can you end the meeting while we still want to speak?”, “You planned this meeting to hear the public’s views!”, and “Most of the board left early, and those who remain are not even listening to the people speaking!”In response, the stoney-faced board chair, Mary Nichols, coolly closed her papers and turned her back on the attendees. The public that had taken time off work, paid for parking, and the gas to get to this meeting were out $30-$70, but Mary and her crew were paid handsomely for their time.

Pam, Heather and Peter