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Governor Schwarzenegger would have you believe he is one of the “greenest” governors in California’s history. And, in fairness, he should be applauded for high-profile actions, such as signing AB 32 (The Global Warming Solutions Bill), establishing the Ocean Action Plan and launching the Million Solar Roofs Initiative.
But does his environmental reputation truly reflect his environmental record in our communities? Where it may matter most, I would say the answer to date has been a resounding “no.”
The fight for the environmental protection – even the most daunting challenges like global warming – will be won or lost at the local level, where many of our most important innovations occur. Over the next few months, our governor will make decisions that will define his political legacy. These include dozens of crucial appointments to agencies that safeguard California’s natural resources. In this battle for our future, the impact of the hundreds of appointments made to agencies that regulate air and water pollution, energy policy, pesticide use, and other environmental concerns cannot be overstated.
The men and women he selects will shape the landscape of environmental protection in California for years to come.
Yes, we have had some high-profile green appointments under Governor Schwarzenegger. There have even been some – though few and far between – good lower-level environmental appointments. However, the majority of the governor’s first-term environmental appointments have been industry flunkies who have not looked out for first and foremost for California’s environment.
Check out his appointments here.
The San Diego Regional Water Board is a perfect example. Schwarzenegger inherited a board known as a staunch defender of our environment, a board that adopted strong permits and undertook enforcement actions that helped reduce sewer spills by 83 percent and beach advisories by 75 percent, setting national precedent for regulating water pollution.
Since becoming Governor, Schwarzenegger has replaced six of the nine board members, mainly with industry representatives who have turned a national model into the worst example of a ‘do-nothing’ agency. Enforcement actions are down 87 percent. Fines for major pollution and spills are whittled down to slaps on the wrist. Clean-up plans for San Diego Bay and other toxic waterways – once close to being enacted – are now stalled with no movement in sight.
My next post will address the Governor’s most recent appointments, and the role that San Diegans can play in helping shape our local water policies.
– BRUCE REZNIK