Two steps forward. One step back.

Very late last Friday on the final day of the legislative session, the California legislature passed a package of bills that together would require all utilities in the state to get one third of their electricity from renewable energy facilities by 2020.  

On Saturday, the tired but optimistic supporters were looking forward to asking Governor Schwarznegger for his signature.  The Governor had himself asked for RPS legislation just a few months earlier and the final compromise met most, though perhaps not all, of his objectives.  While the bills are not perfect and no stakeholder got everything they wanted, the final product is a strong, balanced step forward.

But less than half a day after the legislation passed, Governor Schwarznegger's spokesman announced that he would veto it when it reaches his desk.  Instead, on Tuesday, he signed an executive order directing the Air Resources Board to develop and adopt regulations to implement the 33% RPS. The reasons he cited were that the legislation didn't allow adequate flexibility and could result in excessive costs for utility customers.

In making his announcement so quickly, it felt to me as though the Governor had jumped two steps ahead, skipping past the legislative foundation, and going straight to the development of the detailed regulations that will be necessary to fully implement the program.  But implementation of a 33% RPS through regulation without legislative backing raises important legal issues that could increase uncertainty and whose resolution may delay implementation.

Despite the Governor's announcement, supporters of the legislation are continuing to make their case for signing the 33% RPS bills.  We're working to convince the Governor that the legislation meets his substantive concerns and that any remaining issues can be dealt with through follow-up legislation or administrative rulemakings.(e.g. group letter)

We also need to convince the Governor that signing the legislation and revising his executive order, even if he sees it as taking a step backward, is justified.  At least in this case, we're working to convince him that two steps forward and one step back represents real progress for California.