Calif. AG candidate takes aim at Texas oil companies

Chris Rizo Mar. 30, 2010, 4:11am

Kamala Harris (D)

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-A leading Democratic candidate for California attorney general is calling on her rivals to publicly oppose two out-of-state oil companies' efforts to repeal California's landmark greenhouse law.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris said Monday that she is issuing the call to her fellow Democrats and Republicans in the race to succeed Jerry Brown as the Golden State's chief legal officer.

"California's landmark greenhouse gas laws are under attack, with Texas oil companies pledging millions of dollars to eviscerate our state's leading clean energy and air pollution control standards at the ballot box," Harris said Monday night. "California voters deserve to know where every candidate for attorney general stands on this critical issue."

She and the California League of Conservation Voters is taking aim at an effort by Texas-based oil refineries Tesoro Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. to bankroll a California ballot measure that would suspend a law that requires the state to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020.

The law -- the California Global Warming Solutions Act, or Assembly Bill 32 -- was signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Under the statute, mandatory emissions caps will begin in 2012 for significant sources of climate-altering gasses.

A statement by the Harris campaign said the state's next attorney general will "play a pivotal role in vigorously defending and enforcing AB 32."

The proposed ballot measure, backed by the oil giants, would suspend the law until California's beleaguered economy improves for an extended period.

If approved by voters, the measure would not allow the greenhouse emissions law to be enforced until the state unemployment rate has dropped below 5.5 percent for at least four consecutive quarters.

The landmark law was enacted in 2006, when California's unemployment rate was 4.8 percent. The state's unemployment rate is currently more than 12 percent and has been more than 5.5 percent since July 2007.

California Employment Development Department figures indicate that since 1976, there have been just three periods when unemployment has remained below 5.5 percent for four or more quarters: January 1988 through December 1989, October 1999 through June 2001, and October 2005 through June 2007.

To qualify for the November ballot, initiative backers must collect at least 433,971 valid voter signatures by June 24, the secretary of state's office said.

Critics of the law say restricting emissions will cost the state much-needed jobs. Their position was bolstered this month by a report issued by the nonpartisan California Legislative Analyst's Office.

The LAO report said the greenhouse gas law will at least in the short run cost jobs in California.

"We believe that the aggregate net jobs impact in the near term is likely to be negative," the LAO report said. "Reasons for this include the various economic dislocations, behavioral adjustments, investment requirements, and certain other factors."

Running for California attorney general, in addition to Harris, on the Democratic side is state Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, Assemblymen Pedro Nava and Ted Lieu, and Chris Kelly, a former executive at Facebook. Seeking the GOP nomination is Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, state Sen. Tom Harman and former law school dean John Eastman.

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