California Performance Review Must Not Result in Reduced Environmental Protection, Says NRDC

Statement by NRDC California Advocacy Associate Victoria Rome

SAN FRANCISCO (August 3, 2004) - The California Performance Review (CPR) released today by the Schwarzenegger administration should be the start of a welcome public dialogue about improving state environmental and public health programs, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). But the group warned it would be a mistake to make any changes that result in relaxed environmental protections. The following is a statement by NRDC California Advocacy Associate, Victoria Rome.

"For decades California has led the nation in developing innovative methods to protect public health and the environment. We've done this in ways that are both cost-effective and that ensure sustainable growth. There may be ways to streamline environmental protection in California, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. It would be a huge mistake to make any changes that result in relaxed environmental protections.

"Many of the state's independent boards and commissions have been the very first line of defense for the environment. We should not dismantle the public agencies that have most successfully balanced environmental protection and economic prosperity. For example, the Air Resources Board could be the most important state environmental board in the country, given California's unique authority under the federal Clean Air Act. The board's independence has allowed it to develop innovative programs that have cleaned the air not just in California, but in other states where they have been adopted.

"Likewise, both the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission are a core part of California's working energy infrastructure, and have been for decades. While there are definite improvements that could be made, neither of these commissions should be eliminated. In other respects, we agree that the critical functions of the Electricity Oversight Board and the California Power Authority could be consolidated.

"Finally, dismantling regional boards in favor of a centralized environmental department could dramatically reduce public participation in environmental policy-making and give undue influence to special interest groups.

"NRDC will continue to review the report in greater detail. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss improved management of our air, water and other natural resources. But we must proceed with great caution and remember that many of the resources at stake can never be replaced."