Governor meets protests as he signs AB 32 in Malibu

“Historic occasion” marks California’s leadership in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, Gov. Schwarzenegger says. LNG terminal opponents see a contradiction.

By Ward Lauren / Special to The Malibu Times

With a panorama of the Malibu coastline from a promontory high on the Pepperdine University campus as a symbolic backdrop, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, into law last week.

The formal signing was the second of a two-part ceremony that began with a similar event in chilly San Francisco earlier that day. Critics called the two signings highly photogenic ceremonial events staged so Schwarzenegger could claim credit for the bill’s passage as he tries to take the high ground on the environment.

Accompanying the governor on what he termed “this very historic occasion” at Pepperdine were several local, state, national and international dignitaries, including Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-41) and Speaker Fabian Nuñez, co-authors of the bill. Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic airlines and a strong environmentalist, offered congratulations via a satellite screen. Kazuo Kodama, counsel general of Japan in Los Angeles, read a letter of praise for the bill from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

In his talk preceding the signing, Schwarzenegger said, “There is nothing more important than protecting our planet, so I hope you are as proud as I am today as California leads the way in one of the most important issues that is facing our time, which is the fight against global warming and protecting our environment. This is something we owe our children and grandchildren.”

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AB 32, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, will limit the state’s emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It will institute a mandatory reporting system to monitor compliance and also allow for market mechanisms to provide incentives for businesses to reduce emissions.

The signing ceremonies made no provision for questions to the governor from the press or audience, to the particular consternation of local reporters who were anxious to ask him about his purported support of the BHP Billiton liquefied natural gas facility proposed off the Malibu coast. They were instead directed to Deputy Press Secretary Darrel Ng who fielded several questions on the subject.

“The governor has not taken a position at this time [on the BHP Billiton proposal],” he said.

“So he is open to the comments supplied to him by the Coastal Advocates who are strongly against it?” he was asked.

“He is open to all points on the record,” Ng said. “The good thing about this process is that the project proponent is going to have to work with the State Lands Commission and the Coast Guard to get a permit to build this project, and in this process there’s a massive environmental impact report.”

The governor will make his decision based on the regulatory agencies’ reviews, including comments from local environmental advocates, Ng said.

Asked about other locations on the coast where LNG terminals may be planned, Ng said, “The governor does not favor any particular site. He understands there is a full regulatory process that must ensue prior to a site being chosen. He does not have a position on any of the LNG projects.”

As to whether the governor supports the importation and use of liquid natural gas overall, which the coastal environmentalists also oppose, Ng said, “He recognizes that we need a diversified supply of natural gas, and LNG provides an opportunity to have that.”

In another environmental action that same day, it was announced that the governor had signed a Senate bill to increase and hasten renewable energy use. SB 107 also requires energy utilities to address carbon emission in their long-term procurement plans.

A random sampling of local opinion of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s signing of AB 32 showed Malibu residents generally to have mixed and cautious approval.

“Well, signing the law itself is a very good thing,” said Connie Slade of Zuma Bay Villas. “But it’s a contradiction. He can’t be for that and for the LNG terminal at the same time.”

Actor Daniel Stern said, “I need to see what’s behind it. It always ends up being a photo-op or a headline and there’s no follow-through. I’m looking for the energy plan for this country, for this state, that’s smart, that’s clean, that has the big picture involved.”

British expatriate Susan Jackson, who now lives at Point Dume, said, “His signing the bill against greenhouse gases was excellent, but I think his people haven’t informed him about what’s being discovered about the BHP thing. He’s shifting toward the Democratic position because he’s terrified of losing votes, and I keep expecting him to suddenly say ‘No, I’m not for this!’ It’s a little contradictory, isn’t it? He’s trashing the last pristine coastline.”

An indication of the political sensitivity of the event was evidenced before the ceremonies when City Councilwoman Pamela Conley Ulich was asked to remove her anti-BHP button, and her five-year-old son to remove his “Terminate the Terminal” T-shirt. The youngster refused but was given another shirt to put on over the offending message.

“I was proud of him,” Ulich said.

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