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How green is the governor?

San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, September 7, 2004

[SB 1648 endorsement]

SINCE WINNING office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done nearly everything right as a green politico. Environmental groups applaud his appointments, position papers and outspokenness on air pollution and ocean protection.

Now comes the telling moment. On his desk is a pile of environmental bills to sign or veto. As a group, they don't compare to weighty measures to raise the minimum wage, bar offshoring of jobs or buy cheap Canadian drugs. But the governor's actions will establish his record on issues such as smog, pesticides and energy.

The bills could put him on a collision course with favorite groups such as business, agriculture and even car collectors such as TV star Jay Leno, on whose show Schwarzenegger launched his recall run.

The governor starts out with Sierra-sized political capital. His recall position paper from last fall called for cutting air pollution by 50 percent, protecting the ocean and coast, promoting solar power and boosting renewable energy. His advisers include Terry Tamminen, a well-regarded Santa Monica enviro who now heads the state Environmental Protection Agency, and Mike Chrisman, the director of the state Resources Agency and a Republican moderate with wide connections among outdoors groups. It's a promising start.

Here are several key bills that will fill the record further:

SMOG: AB2683 by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, toughens tailpipe regulations on smog-spewing older vehicles. It's opposed by collectors such as car fancier Leno, a pal of the governor and owner of more than 100 classic cars.

A second pollution bill puts Schwarzenegger on a collision course with business. AB2042 by Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would cut down on diesel exhaust of idling ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The emissions are a major source of smog in the region, but the ports are economic engines. Both smog bills deserve signing.

OCEANS: Schwarzenegger has energetically endorsed two national reports calling for stronger oversight of fish-depleted oceans, a stance that adds to pending overhaul of fishing rules and conservation practices. He should continue this fight by signing SB1319 by Sen. John Burton, D-San Francisco, a measure that calls for closer planning between a multitude of state agencies.

Locally, the governor also should sign AB1876 by Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Alameda. It requires health warnings where humans come in contact with the bay, such as windsurfers at Crissy Field in San Francisco.

PESTICIDES: The governor must choose between agricultural interests and health groups on SB391 by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter. The measure sets up rules and fines covering the dangers of lethal pesticides that drift from cropland into nearby residential areas, a problem in the Central Valley. He should sign it.

SOLAR: The governor advanced a late-session idea to push solar power in new-home construction. But his plan was tagged to higher energy bills, a method that drew Democratic opposition. Back to the drawing boards, governor, and find a way to make solar work.

ENERGY: SB1478 by Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, would wean California from fossil fuel in favor of renewables like wind, solar or biomass. Current rules require 20 percent of the state's energy diet to come from these new sources by 2017. Sher's bill would move this date to 2010. It matches Schwarzenegger's position paper supporting a move to clean fuels and an end to dependence on foreign oil. Sign it, governor.

TIMBER: He supports the state's homegrown plans to balance logging with conservation, as mapped out in the Sierra Nevada Framework. He's also favors a conservancy for the Sierra that would purchase public access rights on private land.

A further test is SB1648 by Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, to moderate tree- cutting in the 50,000 acre Jackson State Forest in Mendocino County. Instead of getting the best timber yield in the redwood forest, state criteria would also include recreation, education and public enjoyment. He should sign this model measure.

During his campaign, Schwarzenegger said, "I have always been environmentally friendly, and I will fight for the environment.'' He added, "Nothing to worry about.'' It's time to continue a promising start with bill signings.

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