February 12, 2010

It’s the economy: District asks Governator to suspend climate change law

By Charlie Morasch
Land Line Magazine

One California air quality management district is asking California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to suspend a state global warming law, thereby killing several corresponding diesel regulations until the state’s decimated economy rebounds.

The Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District recently sent a four-page letter to Schwarzenegger asking the governor to suspend Assembly Bill 32 – the 2006 law that gave the California Air Resources Board the power to create and enforce emissions rules aimed at curbing global warming.

Several trucking regulations – including CARB’s Port Drayage Rule, its On-Road Truck and Bus Rule, and the SmartWay (retrofit) rule – were created under the authority of A.B. 32.

“Within the (air district’s) jurisdiction – we are rapidly approaching “regulatory gridlock” which not only threatens to cripple the local and regional economy, but also hinders our agency’s ability to adequately protect the local air quality and health of our residents,” the letter states.

“While we believe the goals of many of the legislative and regulatory enactments behind A.B. 32 are laudable and necessary, we are finding that, in an area of unique economic and regulatory challenges like ours, there are serious conflicts among existing and potential proposed regulatory programs.”

In the letter, the air district board noted that nearly 50 percent of the district’s residents commute at least 40 miles each way to work, and that 200,000 cars travel to and from the high desert area every workday.

“The MDAQMD Governing Board thus urges you to support any and all efforts to suspend further implementation of A.B. 32 until some, if not all, of these conflicts have been looked at and potentially resolved,” the letter states. “The Governing Board understands that its request may involve a repeal or substantial reworking of the climate change effort in California, but we must do what is necessary.”

The letter stated that regulatory air quality requirements have made new renewable energy projects “nearly impossible to site within” the air district’s jurisdiction.

In addition to A.B. 32, the district has to continue to meet obligations under Clean Air Act, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and faces the potential of federal law enforcement of cap-and-trade proposals already approved in the U.S. House and being considered in the Senate.

“With a 16.6 percent average unemployment range looming large over our jurisdiction, we believe any additional mandates which impose even higher fees and more stringent requirements on local industry put us at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states which are not regulating greenhouse gases as stringently, if they are regulating it at all,” the letter states.

California is divided into 35 local air districts that enforce CARB emissions regulations. Each district has a governing board as well as employees. The districts are funded mostly by citation fees, said Eldon Heaston, executive director.

Mike Rothschild, a governing board member for the Mojave Desert air district and Mayor Pro-Tem for Victorville, CA, said A.B. 32’s many provisions are hurting California.

“This is killing the economy!” Rothschild said. “Right now, with the economy as bad as it is, people don’t understand that if you want to go into business, you’re buried in this pile of regulations.”

Rothschild, who has served on the local air board for 17 years, said he’s been contacted by many people who support the board’s request to suspend the global warming law.

“We’re not the only ones,” said Rothschild. “If the governor gets his head in the game and realizes this is a real job killer, and an expense to doing business here, maybe we’ll get it back.”

The Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District has been contacted by other air districts considering sending their own such request to the state.

Rothschild said he hopes other air districts will follow suit.

“We have the toughest state emissions standards in the whole United States,” Rothschild said. “Why? No better reason than people thinking they’re saving the planet. In the process, they’re shutting down California.”