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Schwarzenegger's environmental legacy: green or 'olive-drab'?

Arnolglobe2 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's long effort to cast himself in the role of a national environmental champion is losing luster in the waning weeks of his administration, as green groups protest last-minute deals with polluting businesses.

"How green is he?" asked Bill Magavern, the Sierra Club's California director. "We came to the conclusion that he's olive-drab."

How many disappointments in the eyes of environmentalists? Let them count the ways:

  • The California Air Resources Board's Dec. 16 decision to ignore its own board of economic advisors and give carbon pollution allowances to industry for free, rather than auction them from the start of its global-warming cap-and-trade program.
  • Allowing the carbon trading program to include complex forest offsets that permit heavy industry to avoid some carbon curbs by paying timber companies to stretch out the timetables for clear-cutting forests.
  • The air board's Dec. 17 decision to roll back its first-in-the-nation crackdown on diesel soot in existing trucks and construction equipment. The new rules lift an earlier requirement for filters on backhoes, graders, large forklifts, front-loaders and other machines, extending the retirement date for most of the 150,000-engine fleet to 2023. The filter requirement would also be lifted for medium-sized trucks, but retained for school buses and the heaviest trucks, beginning in 2014.
  • The loosening of the state's proposed Green Chemistry regulations under a precedent-setting law to remove toxic chemicals from retail products. The action prompted 33 environmental, health and community groups to warn that the new rules are "so ineffective and burdensome that they should be jettisoned altogether."
  • The fast-tracking of regulations to allow agribusiness to use the pesticide methyl iodide, despite a finding from the Department of Pesticide Regulation that the chemical "could result in significant health risks for [farm] workers and the general population." 

Schwarzenegger spokesmen and appointees vigorously defend the governor's record -- as has the governor himself. "We have led the nation in developing green policies," he said after the recent adoption of the cap-and-trade program, the most comprehensive in the country. "And we have seen our green economy grow as a result."

Mary D. Nichols, chairman of the air board, described California's carbon-trading program, which will cover 600 of the state's biggest industrial plants, as "cautious and careful but within the context of a very bold effort." And the diesel rules, the only ones in the nation that apply to existing equipment, will halve soot emissions in the state in four years, officials said.


Environmentalists deplore Schwarzenegger's corporate turn

Forest offsets: Chiapas to California

Arnold's climate summit: a final hot-air fest?

Strawberry pesticide targeted by environmentalists, farmworkers

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger's green image -- as in this 2007 Newsweek cover story -- has often been brighter in the national media than it has in his own state, where his policies are more scrutinized. Credit: PR Newsfoto / Newsweek

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DJ, we (California) are the 11th largest economy on the PLANET.

Save your lies for the tea drinkers.

The "acting" governor asked for federal disaster funds. Where is Benedict Arnold? Couldn't he even pretend to work in Sacramento to finish out his term?

Thanks for writing this article countering the myth of Arnold as the "Green Governor." Schwarzenegger's real environmental legacy is much different from how the outgoing Governor and his collaborators portray it. What is his actual record?

• Schwarzenegger allowed the Department of Water Resources to pump record levels of water out of the Delta from 2004 to 2006, resulting in the Central Valley salmon and California Delta pelagic (open water) fish collapses. The largest annual water export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF).

• He constantly attacked two federal biological opinions, released in 2009, protecting Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales.

• He has vetoed numerous environmental bills, including vetoing a badly needed bill sponsored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) that would provide for emergency fish rescue plans on the Delta.

• He fast-tracked a controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative filled with conflicts of interest, mission creep and corruption of the democratic process.

However, the "crown jewel" of Schwarzenegger's water policies is his campaign to build a peripheral canal/tunnel and new dams through his Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservati on Plan processes. The construction of a canal/tunnel, estimated to cost anywhere from $23 billion to $53.8 billion, is likely to lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species.

In Californias bid to become the greenest place on earth, the left has totally destroyed the economic future of California for generations to come......and didn't make bit of difference environmentally which proves the belief that the environmental movement is really an anti-capitalist movement.

Arnold was a failure. Anything he did was counter-productive. Hope his inevitable future failures are in endeavors that only effect him and his family. Hasta la vista, baby!

not to mention pushing super hard to kill wilderness for Chevron and Goldman Sachs (Big Solar) profits and SDG&E's Big Transmission boondoggles, rather than implement the proven policy of feed in tariffs so WE could be paid fairly to install solar panels on our homes and businesses and keep our open spaces wild and not industrialized. NO excuse for killing wilderness for (totally not) "renewable" power!

he also vetoed every green building bill that would have made CA energy and water efficient - he was TOTALLY in the pockets of Big Energy and Big Developers...

So excited Jerry Brown will finally get to help us install clean, non-deadly power all throughout our baking, sprawling built environment and will STOP the Big Energy monopolists from destroying even more of our planet for money!!!

Most of these regressive decisions by the Schwarzenegger administration were made by the California Air Resources Board under the direction of Mary Nichols. Nichols should retire from public service and Governor Brown should appoint a true clean air advocate to lead CARB. It was only a couple years ago that public pressure forced Nichols to place several of her family's major energy industry investments into a blind trust. She and her husband John Daum, an attorney who represents Exxon in the ongoing Exxon Valdez oil-spill case, have a financial stake in 13 energy-related firms amounting to well over $1 Million dollars. Their major investments included Valero (which recently tried to undermine CA municipal electric utilities), Enron (one of the most corrupt companies in American history which played a leading role in causing the CA energy crisis of several years ago) Peabody Energy, (the largest, filthiest coal company in the U.S.) and Chevron (CA's largest polluter). Once upon a time, a long time ago, Nichols was an effective clean air advocate but no more. Environmental groups who support Nichols, and you know who you are, should look in the mirror when you start pointing fingers at government, industry and others who stand in the way of clean energy and clean air.


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