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Poizner boasted of solar panels, other "environmentally conscious" actions in 2006 race [Updated]

May 19, 2010 |  6:32 pm

In his race for insurance commissioner four years ago, Steve Poizner wrote that in nearly three decades living in California, he'd grown "to truly appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us here."

"We're fortunate to have a magnificent Bay, unique wetlands, beautiful forests, and stunning deserts," he wrote. "I believe it is our duty and responsibility to preserve the environment through extensive education, appropriate advocacy, and targeted political action."

The comments were made in a questionnaire, obtained Wednesday by The Times, that was submitted by Poizner as he sought an endorsement by the Sierra Club, which ultimately backed then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, a Democrat.

Poizner has spoken little about protecting the environment in this year's Republican primary for governor against Meg Whitman, the former chief of EBay. He has criticized her for "environmental extremism" because she gave $300,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund and took a cruise to study global warming with a group that included Van Jones, the former Obama environmental czar who is despised by conservative Republicans.

But in his Sierra Club questionnaire, Poizner called global warming one of the three most pressing environmental problems facing California (along with clean air and clean water). He said he would be "a strong voice" on the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners' global warming task force. He said California could "take a leadership role" in the world on environmental protection, and, through the state's 2006 legislation to curb global warming, "show the nation how to reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions and benefit by reducing our dependency on foreign oil."

This year, Poizner backs an initiative to indefinitely suspend the same law, which he now calls "Draconian," and says California should not get ahead of other states, because global warming is not "state warming."

His campaign pointed to this consistency: In 2006, he wrote that the legislation would be a "huge failure" if businesses left California as a result -– the rationale he now uses for suspending it. The law doesn't take effect until 2012, but Poizner blames it for scaring business away in advance.

Other "environmentally conscious activities" Poizner talked about in the questionnaire that he hasn't emphasized in this year's race: the five kilowatt photo-voltaic solar energy system on the roof of his Silicon Valley home and the solar power system at his synagogue for which he was "the major kickoff contributor."

Poizner, who says he is the only real conservative in the race against Whitman and has portrayed her as a hypocrite for waffling on her past support for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), described himself to the Sierra Club as "a political moderate" whose "focus has been and will continue to be one of building coalitions to address problems rather than engaging in partisan political rhetoric." He said his campaign had support from Democrats and unaffiliated voters, as well as from Republicans.

[Updated at 8:26 p.m.: Poizner spokeswoman Bettina Inclan forwarded remarks she said Poizner made on CNBC eight months ago to show that he had in fact discussed his solar panels and protecting the environment during this campaign. In the quote, below, Poizner makes those comments as a counterbalance to his call to overhaul state environmental laws:

Some of the environmental rules here in the state of California are just way extreme.

Now, I care about the environment. I have solar cells on my roof. We're going to protect the environment here in California. But the rules are so extreme here. All that it ends up doing is to kill jobs. It hurts the economy and pushes manufacturing to the Midwest.

Now, in the Midwest, they get their electricity to run their manufacturing plants from pretty dirty coal-burning fire plants. So our environmental rules here actually hurt the environment, because if we had that manufacturing here, we would have much better control over the impact on the environment, but we would keep the jobs here, so we would have a healthy, growing economy. That's the key.]

 --  Michael Rothfeld in Sacramento