No Backroom Deals Over California's Air Quality

The California Air Resources Board ("CARB") recently enacted rules to fight air pollution from off-road diesel vehicles such as construction equipment and tractors.  CARB staff estimates that approximately 4,000 premature deaths will be avoided statewide by the year 2030 due to the off-road rules, as well as 680,000 work loss days.  CARB enacted this rule in public session after a year of public input, including public hearings in which the affected industries participated.  In essence, the owners of fleets of off-road vehicles will need to modernize (on a fleet average basis)  the vehicles' engines, beginning in 2010 for large fleets, 2013 for medium fleets and 2015 for small fleets.  

Needless to say, industry did not like these rules and has seen an opportunity to delay them in the current budget crisis in California.  Here in California, we need a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to pass a budget.  This gives Republican legislators veto power, and they are not shy about using it to advance their agenda.  

Backroom deals are being negotiated as this post is being written, with the Republicans insisting on environmental rollbacks in return for their vote on a budget.  One of their targets is the CARB off-road rules.  The current Republican proposal would delay the start date of the rules and would stretch out the compliance schedule well past 2015.  

It's no wonder that the proponents of this rollback don't want it debated in the light of day.  It is an insult to the people of California and to the very idea of open government.  We don't have to trade off the health of the public against the health of the economy - we can have both.  To get there, we need real leadership in Sacramento with the vision and guts to get the California economy moving again without killing more Californians in the process.  And - let's do this where the public can see it.