Schwarzenegger: Renewable Power Mandates Should Trump Species Concerns

Published August 6, 2010

Speaking to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners meeting in Sacramento, California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said overblown concerns about the Mojave ground squirrel and endangered California condor were preventing the state from meeting its renewable energy goals.

“The new goal that we have is 33 percent of renewables, but as you know, this is always easier said than done,” said Schwarzenegger. “It’s, of course, a big challenge, because you have environmentalists who are big believers in renewable energy, but you have then another group of environmentalists who don’t believe in growth, or at all disturbing the habitat out there.”

Schwarzenegger issued an executive order last year directing the state Air Resources Board to pass a 33 percent renewable energy standard for all utilities (up from the 20 percent legislative mandate applicable to investor-owned utilities), but has delayed implementation of the order after the legislature failed to pass a companion bill.

Concerns About Condors
Schwarzenegger also derided environmentalists for opposing wind farms in areas where California condors may be expanding their range.

“There is some indication that the condor is moving a little bit to the west from the ocean side east, and within a few years it could be that they’re locating where the windmills are,” he said. “I said, ‘Come on guys, this is ridiculous now.’ The bottom line is you have those kind of obstacles that are being created, which makes it very difficult.”

Ongoing Environmental Battles
This spat is not the first time environmental concerns have thwarted development of renewable power and infrastructure in California. San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has proposed a 1,000-megawatt transmission line from geothermal energy sources in California’s Imperial Valley to the San Diego metropolitan area. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPCU) approved the project, but the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit in the California State Supreme Court, claiming the project violated the state’s Environmental Quality Act.

CBD advocates instead making upgrades to the existing grid, more energy conservation, and building renewable plants closer to population centers. Ironically, delay of this project will most likely cause SDG&E to miss its mandatory renewable electricity targets.

Renewable Power vs. Jobs
Schwarzenegger also addressed a November ballot initiative (Proposition 23) that would suspend the state’s global warming law, A.B. 32, until unemployment falls below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

“They said ‘temporarily,’ but if that’s meaning the state has four quarters in a row of unemployment below 5.5 [percent], which it hasn’t had in 30 years, you know they want to take it out,” he said of the initiative’s sponsors.

“I disagree with the governor’s comments on Prop 23,” said Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda). “He is implying that the initiative is disingenuous in temporarily suspending AB 32, and that is simply not the case. The objective here is to allow our economy to recover to the point where unemployment is at a steady 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

“This really isn’t all that much to ask, considering it has been achieved 10 times in the past decade and 20 times since 1988, according to data from the California Employment Development Department. We also have to keep in mind that California’s unemployment rate was only at 4.8 percent when AB32 was passed in 2006.”

Tom Tanton ([email protected]) is principal of T2 & Associates, a California-based energy technology and policy consulting group.