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With foes like these ...

In their environmental battle, GOP lawmakers may have given Jerry Brown just what he wanted.

August 23, 2007

Jerry Brown should take the 15 Republican state senators out to dinner. Spring for a few bottles of really good wine. Definitely include dessert. He owes them.

After all, they did a lot for Brown over the last month and a half. There could be no state budget, they insisted, without a new law blocking the attorney general from suing to curb production of greenhouse gases. He could not have asked for better advocates. The budget package provisions that had the Republicans declaring victory Tuesday may in fact be handing Brown -- and environmentalists -- an enormous victory.

The language that purports to limit how Brown uses the landmark California Environmental Quality Act implicitly recognizes, for the first time, that the act applies to global warming. That gives environmentalists a powerful new tool to block carbon-spewing sprawl. The legislation also calls for state regulations limiting production of greenhouse gases to be part of the local planning process -- well in advance of the regulations called for under last year's widely touted AB 32. Once the new regulations are adopted, Brown would be unable to sue over projects funded with state transportation or levee bond money. No problem; he wasn't moving in that direction anyway.

The attorney general is instead targeting county and regional general plans. Like many environmentalists, he recognizes that there is little sense in capping greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging California to continue to allow housing, workplaces and shopping centers to be built so far apart that residents have no choice but to drive farther and pump more exhaust into the air.

The same day that Brown won on the budget, he concluded a settlement with San Bernardino County that puts the fast-growing region on the road toward smarter growth. It is an approach that could lead California into a more environmentally sound future.

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