California Budget Fight Threatens Environmental Protection

My son Evan likes to watch Batman movies.  We particularly enjoyed seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin.  These days, though, I liken Schwarzenegger more to Two-Face from Batman Forever. 

One face is the Governor who boldly signed groundbreaking global warming legislation, AB 32 in 2006 and SB 375 this year.  The other face, though, is the one who vetoes budget bills for being too protective of the environment.  NRDC and our partners in Sacramento have been working for weeks to stop environmental attacks that have made their way into budget battles despite having nothing to do with California's fiscal problems.  This week, the legislature passed a bill that environmentalists opposed because it exempted large transportation projects from environmental review.  It hurt when the legislature passed the bill, but we were shocked when the Governor announced that he would veto the long-sought budget bill because it didn't go far enough to exempt infrastructure projects from California's landmark environmental protection statute - the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  You can read our coalition press release here

There's no question that California's budget situation is dire and creative solutions are needed.  But state leaders can't commit to strong global warming reductions on the one hand and then undermine that commitment by allowing major road construction projects to go forward with no analysis of the environmental and health hazards they create.  That makes no sense.  We are on the verge of accelerating a clean energy economy.  President-Elect Obama has not waivered in his commitment to a stimulus package that invests in efficiency, renewable energy and public transportation.  California must stand by its environmental commitments too.  If legislators and the Governor make shortsighted decisions now, we will fall short in curbing global warming and protecting public health.  And if we fall short, I doubt the Bat Phone will save us.