Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Greenhouse Gas Law
SAN FRANCISCO In a move backers hope will change the U.S. approach to the problem of global warming, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law Wednesday aimed at reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions.
"We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history," the Republican governor said.
The measure passed by the Democratic-led Legislature last month caps the state's man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The most populous U.S. state seeks to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of about 25 percent.
The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is also a direct challenge to the Bush administration -- which has opposed mandatory caps to fight climate change -- by a state that has often led the way nationally in new environmental standards.
President Bush pulled the United States out of the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol in 2001, saying forced reductions in greenhouse gases would damage the economy and unfairly excluded developing nations.
"Other countries like India and China, Brazil and Mexico will join us when they see all the great work that we are doing," Schwarzenegger said. "Also our federal government will follow us -- trust me."
Details on how the state will achieve the emission cuts have not been worked out.
By embracing measures such as the global warming bill, Schwarzenegger has benefited in a state dominated by Democrats. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also addressed the bill-signing ceremony by video link, further helping boost the governor's stature as he seeks re-election in November.
"This will echo right around the rest of the world," Blair said. "You are showing brilliant leadership that will inspire a lot of people worldwide." Blair, a close ally of Bush, agreed during a visit to California in July to work with the state in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Opponents of the California measure say it will drive firms to states without such regulations and fail to lead to a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if other states do not follow California's lead.
WORKING WITH DEMOCRATS
After a politically disastrous 2005 in which he badly lost a special initiative election he called, Schwarzenegger has worked closely with Democrats in recent months. Two polls out Wednesday showed him with a comfortable lead over his Democratic rival, state Treasurer Phil Angelides.
Joining the event was New York Gov. George Pataki, a fellow Republican, who said states should not wait for Washington to take action. Pataki came a week after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to work with Schwarzenegger on the issue.
"States should be taking the leadership," Pataki told Reuters. "As more states take these type of actions, as more people become aware that this is right not just for the environment but also for the economy, Washington will follow."
Schwarzenegger also signed a bill that will prohibit California utilities from signing long-term contracts to buy electricity from out-of-state, coal-fired power plants. About a fifth of the electricity used in California comes from coal-fired plants out of state. The law will not affect contracts already in place.
The law requires new out-of-state coal-fired power plants to meet California's stringent emissions rules for new natural gas-fired power plants. This requirement in effect prohibits new coal-fired plants from selling power to California. (Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Los Angeles)