AB 32 foes submit 800,000 signatures to block greenhouse gas law

Backers of a measure to delay California’s greenhouse gas emissions law submitted more than 800,000 signed petitions Monday in an effort to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

A coalition of anti-tax and small business groups, with funding from out-of-state oil companies, held a news conference in Sacramento before handing in the petitions. The measure would block the law until unemployment dips to below 5.5 percent. The state’s jobless rate in March was 12.6 percent.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the measure is an effort to “return California’s economy to some semblance of sanity.” Coupal said the measure would cost the state more than 1 million jobs, far outpacing any potential job gains from new, “green-tech” jobs.

Citing the state’s record unemployment, Coupal said “it’s time to take a timeout” in implementing the law, which is expected to be phased in by 2012.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that he would mount a vigorous defense of the landmark environmental legislation, vowing to “push back” against “greedy oil companies who want to keep polluting in our state.”

AB 32 requires California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The bill, signed into law by Schwarzenegger, was authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, who also authored an earlier landmark bill to curb greenhouse gases from automobiles. The law, generally supported by environmentalists and some in organized labor, has been opposed by business groups that believe it will prove too costly to implement and cost jobs.

Meanwhile, other figures joined in the anti-repeal effort.

Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz announced he would serve as honorary co-chairman of the campaign to block the repeal campaign.

“I have agreed to serve as honorary co-chair for Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition dedicated to stopping the effort to repeal by postponement AB 32, California’s innovative effort to stimulate movement toward cleaner and more secure energy,” Shultz, who served as U.S. secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said Monday.

Another opponent of the repeal was Blue Shield of California, which said it will oppose the measure if it qualifies for the ballot.

“Reducing air pollution that contributes to climate change is the right thing to do for the health of California’s families,” said Tom Epstein, Blue Shield’s vice president for public affairs.

The committee supporting the measure, the California Jobs Initiative, argues that the sweeping environmental laws will raise energy prices and chase manufacturing jobs out of California.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) joined Schwarzenegger in attacking the initiative. Steinberg called it “a desperate attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.” He said AB 32 would create more “green” jobs, which Steinberg said are “leading our state to economic recovery.”

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