Gov.-elect liberal with environment

Much hinges on who Schwarzenegger appoints

By Douglas Fischer, STAFF WRITER

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's environmental platform reads like a liberal Democrat's playbook -- promoting solar power, calling for green building codes, limiting timber harvests in the Sierra Nevada and seek-ing more watershed preservation.
Full of ambitious promises, the platform places the incoming governor on a quick collision course with the Bush administration and, in many instances, the Republican party line.

And as the Schwarzenegger team begins translating campaign promises into government policy, environmentalists are optimistic. They warn that much hinges on who the governor- elect appoints, what sort of overhaul he envisions for key agencies and how he deals with demands from his party's conservative wing. But they're willing, initially, to give him a chance.

"The governor will inevitably be under pressure from other Republicans and by the president," said Sierra Club spokesman Eric Antebi. "But if he shows leadership and does the right thing, we will be there for him."

The Schwarzenegger platform takes what essentially is progressive policy and adds the "Friday night poker" version of a limit raise: He calls for air pollution statewide to drop 50 percent by the end of this decade, for 50 percent of the state's new homes to include a solar photovoltaic system by 2005 and for a hastened effort to protect Lake Tahoe's famously blue waters.

He wants California's energy consumption to drop 20 percent within two years and to accelerate a timetable requiring 20 percent of the state's total power supplies to come from renewable resources. Instead of 2017, as state policy has it, the mark should be hit by 2010. By 2020, one-third of California's power should be green, according to the Schwarzenegger platform.

Skeptics call some of his ideas "pie-in-the-sky" wishes -- chiefly his call for hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles on California's major highways. And like so many elements of the new administration, details on exactly how he will get there were skimpy Thursday.

But other ideas are more concrete, such as a vow to examine the Bush administration's "new source review" exemption that exempts power plant upgrades from tightening pollution controls. He also has pledged to back the Sierra Nevada Framework, a controversial federal logging plan the Bush administration is threatening to gut.

Having a moderate Republican in the governor's mansion, some say, could help bridge deep divides among Central Valley Republicans over the California Federal Bay-Delta Program, a $9 billion effort to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that remains stalled in Congress as Californians bicker.

Schwarzenegger has promised to devote "proper leadership and resources" to the fragile framework.

"In terms of my little piece of the environmental universe -- water quality -- I'm hopeful," said Leo O'Brien, director of San Francisco Baykeeper. "But I have no idea. I have no idea what this guy is going to do. I think everyone is hopeful, but at the same time very fearful."

Schwarzenegger has dropped some hints, though largely ignored in the compressed campaign, his environmental platform was his first detailed policy position, released Sept. 5 -- less than a month after he jumped into the race,

"That should tell you something," said Terry Tamminen, executive director of the Santa Monica-based Environment Now Foundation and an unpaid adviser who helped Schwarzenegger craft his positions. "(The environment) is something he understands and fully supports."

Schwarzenegger's environmental advisers include Tamminen, who according to the Secretary of State has donated $1,350 over the past three years to left-leaning candidates; Dan Emmett, described by Tamminen as "nominally Republican," a Los Angeles developer who has served on the board of the California League of Conservation Voters and is a leader in the green building movement, and Bob Grady, managing director of the Caryle Group and a board member of Environmental Defense who served in the first Bush White House.

Grady, who lives in the Bay Area, was named Thursday to the governor-elect's transition team.

But the biggest fear among environmental groups was a lack of record, and to allay those fears Tamminen offered some vignettes:

Schwarzenegger's children were a regular presence in the candidate's Santa Monica office as he mapped his environmental agenda, and Schwarzenegger "really sees the environment through his kids," Tamminen said. Thus the emphasis on air pollution, which has shown disproportionately adverse affects on the young and is the reason one in seven children in Fresno carry inhalers.

When staking out a position on Rep. Fran Pavley's greenhouse gas emissions bill, it was Schwarzenegger who insisted on unambiguous language promising to defend the new law against anticipated court challenges. Pavley is a Democrat from Agoura Hills.

Worsening air quality is a matter of economics to the governor-elect, and his answer to those who argue that stricter regulations crimp the state's bottom line is to look at the alternative. "He's going to have to push back from people who believe we can keep the declining path of air quality," Tamminen said. "That (status quo) will cost us billions."

But the true test may come in smaller ways: who the governor appoints, how he overhauls the agencies, where he cuts as he attempts to balance the budget without tax increases.

"You're going to be cutting positions," Pavley said. "Those positions are the people who help monitor and enforce the environmental regulations that protect the public health. He may not change the policy, but if you don't have the money to enforce the policies, that may hurt the public."

But in general, Pavley said, the Schwarzenegger platform sounds in step with both Democrats and moderate Republicans who make up an overwhelming majority in the Legislature.

Contact Douglas Fischer at dfischer@angnewspapers.com

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