What's Jerry Brown's position on AB 32?

I've noticed some recent rumblings in the blogosphere and on various social networking sites (e.g: Twitter) about state Attorney General and Democratic candidate for governor Jerry Brown's somewhat ambiguous position on the state's landmark climate change law, AB 32. It seems that some supporters of the law are concerned that Brown hasn't been vigorous enough in his defense of AB 32, which is under attack by oil companies who see the state's economic crisis as an opportunity to stop its implementation.

Here's what MoveOn.org's founding Executive Director Peter Schurman, who has jumped into the race for the Democratic nomination, recently said about Brown's position on AB 32 :

"Does Jerry Brown have what it takes to fight for us? Let's look at one more major example: California's climate-change action plan, known as AB 32.  AB 32 is state law, democratically passed and signed by Governor Schwarzenegger.  But Meg Whitman is promising that if she's elected, her first move will be to undo it.  She's working for Texas oil companies, not California's people. What does Jerry Brown have to say about this? He mounts a tepid defense of AB 32, saying he sees room for 'adjustments.'"

For the record, here is what Brown said at the Green:Net 2010 conference on April 30:

 Editor of Earth2Tech: “You touched very briefly on AB 32, are you fully in support of AB 32 (Brown: “Yes”) or do you think it needs changes?”

Brown: “Look, there isn’t a law that we have that doesn’t need changes. But the basic thrust of AB 32 is the direction, it’s the future, and we ought to stay the course, while making whatever alterations make sense.  The Air Resources Board right now is engaged in that process, and certainly businesses and the governor’s office and the legislature ought to be very much a part of that.”

(Editor asks what Brown thinks of GOP candidate Meg Whitman’s position on AB 32).

Brown: “She [Whitman] wants to pull the plug. I think that step, that stop and start is exactly what creates investor uncertainty and that would deal a crippling blow to some of the startups that are doing well, the smart grid, low carbon fuel standards, different kinds of alternative fuels... We are in the midst of an important set of changes, and AB 32 creates an important framework and we need to protect that at all costs…

"I understand that some people don’t want to pay money if they’re big carbon emitters, and that is a problem, how you deal with that transition is an important one, you don’t want to burden business unduly or in a counter-productive way. So that’s part of the controversy, and I think, Governor Schwarzenegger has written a letter to ARB asking them to take certain steps , and the Air Resources Board conducts hearings, people can put their two cents in, but trying to destroy the whole thing, or say we’ll delay it this year or next year until unemployment goes back to where it was for one year in the last 25, it’s just not the way to go, we need to build a consensus based on what has been done before and keep improving it.”

More coverage of Brown's statements on AB 32 and the regulatory environment in California in general can be found in this excellent article by Colin Sullivan of ClimateWire, which also ran in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/04/30/30climatewire-jerry-brown-defends-embattled-state-climate-49756.html.

The takeaway: Brown is firmly against rolling back AB 32 and does not agree with Meg Whitman's proposal for a moratorium that delays implementation for at least one year. He's also against the Texas oil companies' Dirty Energy Proposition to kill the climate change law (they say they just want to "suspend" it until the state's unemployment rate remains at 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters... which in this economic climate means effectively killing the law). The other contender for the GOP nomination, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, supports the proposition.

Brown does believe that "adjustments" in the law may be necessary, and that the California Air Resources Board may respond to the feedback in the hearings that are taking place in advance of the law's implementation with these "adjustments."

But if Brown wants to win strong support from the environmental community (including the endorsement of political groups like the California League of Conservation Voters) he has to make his position crystal clear to AB 32 supporters -- especially now that Schurman is in the governor's race and is making Brown's perceived waffling on the law an issue (see Schurman's recent post on this and other issues:  www.calitics.com/diary/11622/why-ill-be-a-better-governor-for-california-than-jerry-brown).

Watch the video of Brown's appearance at Green:Net 2010 here: www.livestream.com/gigaomtv/video

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