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Wilson Calls for Streamlined Rules to Spur Base Conversion


ALAMEDA, Calif. — Flanked by two warplanes and a giant American flag, Gov. Pete Wilson on Friday called for streamlining environmental regulations and other government rules to speed the conversion of military bases to civilian use.

Noting that California will suffer two-thirds of the nation's job losses from base closures, the governor proposed legislation to provide financial incentives for rapid conversion, including the transfer of air quality credits to businesses that move onto former bases.

"We simply can't afford to let base conversion fall victim to bureaucratic delay," Wilson said during a campaign-style speech at the Alameda Naval Air Station, one of 22 California bases slated for closure by 1999.

During his appearance, Wilson received the report of a committee he appointed to study how the state can best aid in the conversion of military facilities. Wilson declared the report a "blueprint for action" and called on Congress and the Legislature to implement its recommendations.

The committee, chaired by San Diego Mayor Susan Golding, concluded that the cleanup of toxic contamination on bases will be the greatest obstacle to rapid conversion.

The governor said he would favor reducing redundant environmental regulations for base conversions by allowing one environmental impact report to satisfy the requirements of federal law and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Wilson also said he would support a bill by Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) that would encourage the resolution of environmental or land-use disputes by mediation rather than by lawsuits.

After his speech, the governor insisted that none of his proposals--including the transfer of air quality credits to businesses that take over military sites--would reduce the need for environmental protection measures.

Another element of Wilson's plan would allow local governments to declare closed bases to be redevelopment areas. This would allow cities and counties to raise money by issuing bonds that would be paid for by the increased tax revenues the converted bases produce.

In cases where military bases cross local boundaries, Wilson proposed that one city or county be chosen to take the lead in conversion, thereby avoiding time-consuming bureaucratic battles over how a site should be used.

The latest round of base closures in California--nine, including El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County, the Naval Training Center in San Diego and March Air Force Base in Riverside County--would cost the state nearly 100,000 jobs, the governor's office said. All told, Defense Department cutbacks have resulted in 500,000 lost jobs in California--half the jobs that have been lost nationwide during the recession.

"While I have disagreed with the decisions made by the base closure commission . . . the time for that is past," the governor said. "What is true is that these closed bases represent a real opportunity.

"We have the potential to convert these bases, which represent some of the prime real estate in North America, into the kind of civilian job generators which they can be."

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