NAME: Dan Jacobson
JOB TITLE: Environment California, legislative advocate
Capitol Weekly: Why work to save the
Dan Jacobson: I think the environment is the most important issue of our
time because the steps that we take for the next five or 10 years will
determine the health and beauty of the world for the next 150 years.
CW: What does your job entail–in a nutshell?
DJ: I work to make sure that we can protect California’s environment by
fighting for clean air, clean water and open space. Sometimes that means
compiling research, sometimes that means working with the media, sometimes
that means lobbying in the Capitol and sometimes that means organizing grass
CW: Is it tough working as a public-interest lobbyist, where you’re
competing against the big corporate interests?
DJ: It’s certainly a David versus Goliath kind of fight. They have money,
power, access and influence. But we usually have good ideas.
CW: Describe a recent instance where David conquered Goliath?
DJ: I think the best fight was the million solar roofs and getting the
governor to establish the California solar initiative through the
public-utilities commission. That was an issue where we’ll see real results
quickly for California. We’ll be able to reduce the dependency for foreign
oil, bring business to California and reduce air pollution. It’s a win-win
CW: You’ve helped pass some landmark environmental laws, like the California
Clean Energy Act and the Clean Water Enforcement Act of 1999. What’s next on
DJ: There are a couple issues that we’re working on.
Our biggest issue right now is to fight global warming. But we are also
trying to reduce Californian’s exposure to toxic chemicals. We think parents
should have the right to know if pesticides are near their children’s
schools and day-care centers.
There was a bill in the Legislature that banned phthalates and bisphenol A
[BPA] from children’s products. When these chemicals leech, they can be
dangerous, especially to kids zero to 3 who explore the world by putting
things in their mouths. Bisphenol A is what makes plastic products hard and
phthalates [pronounced tha-lates] is what makes plastics soft. We have
tested and conducted a survey and found these chemicals in teethers and baby
bottles. There are 12 other countries that have restrictions on phthalates,
including the European Union, Mexico and Japan. San Francisco just passed a
city ordinance to restrict the use of phthalates and bisphenol A in products
intended for children under the age of 3.
Unfortunately, the state bill died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Chemical companies opposed to the bill are a powerful voice in the
CW: What was it like being a guest on the O’Reilly Factor?
DJ: Everyone seems to ask me that question [laughs].
CW: I think it’s because of the way he treats his guests.
DJ: Mr. O’Reilly ended up agreeing with me. It was not as if he was sort of
arguing. There was no bickering–he was just like, “OK, that seems right.”
It was during the California energy crisis, with the rolling blackouts, and
the issue was whether we should increase the use of nuclear power, which is
a really bad idea. First of all, conservation efficiency and renewable
energies are cheaper and we can bring them online faster. And No. 2, nuclear
power is expensive and dangerous.
CW: It seems like it’s becoming more and more cool to be “green.” Does this
bode well for the future of the environment?
DJ: Yes. People are more aware of the environment than they were 20 years
ago. For instance, a particular issue that people are aware of is global
warming, which is a very complex issue.
Between the heat wave and the movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and general
education from the media, the awareness of global warming and the desire to
reach a solution is something that people really care about.
I think people have always been concerned about the environment, but the
more that it’s on the forefront of people’s minds, the better. Certainly,
within a legislative context, it makes legislators more aware of the issues,
CW: So, what else do you do when you’re not saving the planet?
DJ: Well, I enjoy my work, so I spend a lot of time working–I hope my boss
sees that. I enjoy the Sacramento night life and outdoor activities in the
area. And I play music–the guitar.
CW: Are you in a band?
DJ: Not yet, but close. We’re close to finalizing a band. It’s called
long-lasting side effects. And we’re going to call the groupies special
For more information about Environment California and to find out more about
phthalates and bisphenol A, please visit www.environmentcalifornia.org.