SACRAMENTO — Democrats in the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday acknowledged that they were at loggerheads over details in a pioneering bill to combat global warming.
The dust-up, if unresolved, could lead the governor to veto a bill that he's hoping to make the environmental centerpiece of his bid to win a second term.
Veteran statehouse watchers caution that the global warming bill is too important to the governor, Democrats and, ultimately, California voters to let die.
"Both sides have every incentive to figure out a compromise on this one," said Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant. "If it takes a little bit of chest beating before they make a deal that's just how life in the Capitol works."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday May 28, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Global-warming initiative: An Aug. 24, 2006, article in Business about the debate last summer between Democrats in the state Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on a bill to combat global warming said California produced about 12% of the world's greenhouse gases. The correct figure is 2.5%.
The bill, AB 32, is being hailed by both the environmentalists and the Schwarzenegger administration as possibly the most far-reaching initiative of the year.
They stress that California, which produces about 12% of the world's greenhouse gases, could become a model for the rest of the country and the world in finding ways to avoid the effects of climate change, such as coastal flooding, melting snowpacks and stunted agriculture.
Businesses are split over the proposal. Some fear it would raise costs and destroy jobs. Others see opportunities to profit from developing new technologies.
For now, Schwarzenegger is insisting that any measure to curb greenhouse gases contain mandatory provisions to let industries buy and sell credits allowing some companies to pay for the right to pollute.
He also is pushing to add a provision that would allow the governor to suspend the global warming program if disasters, health problems or economic crises threaten the state.
Schwarzenegger said at a news conference that he "didn't want to talk about what I'd veto." Rather, he said he preferred signaling that he'd sign a bill that would put caps on greenhouse gas pollution and create a market for trading pollution credits.
Industries that reduce emissions to levels below their limits could sell credits to firms that want to exceed their designated cap. The governor said such a "market-based system" would clean the air more quickly because it "makes money" for businesses.
But critics say such systems are bureaucratically unwieldy, financially unworkable and could accomplish little.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles), the author of the global warming bill, conceded that there are "some hiccups" in the nearly round-the-clock negotiations between him and the governor's office.
Democrats and environmentalists said they supported the concept of trading pollution credits. But at a news conference Wednesday they said they didn't want to lock the pollution credits into law before more traditional ways of curbing carbon, such as conservation and energy efficiency, had an opportunity to work.
Environmentalists fear that too much reliance on trading carbon dioxide pollution credits could backfire by delaying efforts to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other better-known toxins.
The governor's pollution credit trading plan "may be what big business wants, but it will mean more pollution, asthma and cancer for California's most vulnerable communities," said Angela Johnson Meszaros a lawyer with the California Environmental Rights Alliance in Los Angeles.
But many mainline business lobbying groups say they're unhappy with the governor's plan. They fear that the buying and selling of scarce credits could increase California's already high price for electricity.