October 8, 2006

CALIFORNIA: L.A. Politicians Talk Clean Air

Los Angeles is the nation's crucible for clean air politics.

Its harbors are the nation's largest entry port for fossil fuels, automobiles, and other Pacific Rim merchandise - which are, in turn, shipped via diesel-spewing haulers and trains to the four corners of the North America. Its clogged freeways are a study in idle vehicle emissions. Its oil refineries befoul the air while the concrete-lined L.A. "River" rushes debris and stinking pollution to our oft-tainted ocean playgrounds. Add infrequent rainfall, brush fires, and the seasonal inversion layers that hover over its suburban valleys and you can easily understand why Los Angeles annually ranks highest as the home of the dirtiest air in the country by the American Lung Association.

This was the backdrop to a very convivial evening featuring key L.A. politicians and environmentalists at L.A.'s Museum of Tolerance Theater on October 5th. The topic under discussion - "The Impact of the November Initiatives." It was an opportunity to meet and listen to political stakeholders explain their positions on key environmental legislation before the voters - in particular Prop 87, The Clean Alternative Energy Initiative. The 90-minute panel discussion was video-taped by the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) for eventual airing on television.

The line-ups were impressive. When scheduled Speaker of the California Assembly Fabian Nunez was unable to make it, we were treated to three distinguished substitutes - Assemblymember Fran Pavley (co-author of AB32, the historic California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, Assemblymember Judy Chu (Chair of the Appropriations Committee), and State Senator Debra Bowen (candidate for CA Secretary of State). All represent districts in Southern California. The other slated politicians included L.A. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and my own L.A. City Councilmember Wendy Greuel (District 2).

The environmentalists on the panel included the leaders of The Nature Conservancy (Mark Burget), the Coalition for Clean Air (Tim Carmichael), The TreePeople (Andy Lipkis), and the Department of Water and Power (David Nahai).

There were four proposed state measures that came up repeatedly in the discussion. There was general agreement that voters should support Proposition 1B (the $19.9 billion Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act) to reinforce California's traffic infrastructure. Also supported was the $5.4 billion Proposition 84 (Water Quality, Safety and Supply, Food Control, Natural Resource Protection, Park Improvements Bonds Initiatives Statute).

Soundly condemned was Proposition 90 (the Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property, Initiative Constitutional Amendment). The audience was warned that this was not to be confused with the controversial national eminent domain judgements that the proponents would have us believe. Passage of this amendment would significantly hamstring the state's ability to implement necessary zoning changes to advance public interests.

The main focus, however, was on Prop 87 - for which there was no opposition voiced in the discussion. The local concern for the state of air quality and pollution, particularly in the coastal waters around Southern California's tourist attraction beaches, has trumped any other concern about the efficacy of the bureaucracy the proposition would establish or the impact on business in California. It appears that these politicians, representing every level of L.A. leadership, are hungry to find popular approval for some measures that would otherwise be beyond the reach of Sacramento to even consider much less enact (see CLCV 2005 California Environmental Scorecard).

While 2006 has seen election-year passage of vote-getting environmental and alternative energy legislation - The Million Solar Roofs Plan (SB1) and the CA Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) - the key to true improvement in clean air will come through "boring" regulatory reform and a loosening of advanced technology permitting.

Without reform many of the innovative responses to the mandates of AB32 (such as L.A.'s revolutionary RENEW L.A. plan) will never be implemented. As a result, landfill and wastewater pollution, truncated recycling efforts, inefficient waste management, environmental injustice, and fossil fuel electricity generation - the true clean air challenges - will remain intransigently the status quo.

With reform, innovative business ventures will raise investment capital and begin deploying new technological solutions that will achieve the target emissions reductions of AB32.

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1 comment:

Robert Rapier said...


Tried to answer your e-mail today, and got a weird message:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.

This message is looping: it already has my Delivered-To line. (#5.4.6)