Will a ballot initiative overturn California's climate law?
The battle to delay enforcement of California's sweeping global warming law, the toughest in the nation, is heating up. Oil companies -- along with an obscure Missouri conservative action group -- injected a new infusion of cash into signature gathering for a November ballot initiative -- reporting the contributions late Friday night to the California secretary of State. That brought the total behind the initiative to $1.9 million so far. Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum came on board with $300,000 to battle AB 32.
Meanwhile, San Francisco's Green Tech Action Fund, an offshoot of the nonprofit Energy Foundation, cut a check for $500,000. Along with contributions from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Fund, that brought the total spent so far to fight the initiative to $637,500. Google, Applied Materials, and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, representing the tech industry, have signed pledge cards to join the campaign against the initiative. The National Venture Capital Assn., representing 400 firms, announced its opposition last week, saying any delay in enforcement of AB 32, the climate law, would mean that "promising companies will either move elsewhere or fail for lack of market traction."
Speculation has begun that, if the measure qualifies for the ballot, expenditures on both sides -- Silicon Valley vs. Big Oil -- could top $150 million, given the billions at stake in the state's pioneering effort to combat climate change and spur a green-tech economy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the climate law's enthusiastic defender, has offered to compromise with industry critics by ramping it up slowly and allowing polluters to buy offsets to avoid big expenses.
On Sunday, the California Democratic Party convention voted to include language in its platform saying, "To safeguard our cherished environment, California Democrats will oppose any attempt to roll back or weaken the state's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act." Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown opposes the initiative to delay the law; GOP candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner support a delay. Activists have launched a boycott of gas stations run by Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. -- the Texas-based refinery giants who are among the initiative's biggest funders.
-- Margot Roosevelt
Photo: A sticker distributed by Working Assets, a San Francisco telephone company, and the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign, which have launched a boycott of Valero Energy Corp., the biggest contributor to a ballot initiative to overturn the state's climate law.