As he wages a Republican primary for governor this year, Steve Poizner has advocated rolling back California's law to curb global warming indefinitely, calling it "a Draconian set of regulations that doesn't help the environment and … destroys the economy."
But four years ago, when the law was passed and he was seeking the endorsements of environmentalists for a different race, Poizner said he supported the anti-global-warming law, which had been approved that year. In an e-mail to a campaign consultant, he said he had filled out a questionnaire for the Sierra Club, an environmental group.
"In it, I am clear that I support the new global warming legislation just passed by the legislature and supported by GAS [ Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger]," Poizner wrote in the Sept. 4, 2006, e-mail. "A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that I support bold efforts to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels."
In his race for governor against former EBay chief Meg Whitman, Poizner has labeled himself the true conservative and faulted her for "environmental extremism." But internal campaign e-mails from 2006 obtained by The Times show a different Poizner as he ran successfully for state insurance commissioner against a Democrat, then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante.
In the e-mails between Poizner and multiple aides, he described efforts to obtain endorsements from environmentalists and bragged of receiving them, though he now ridicules Whitman for supporting the same groups. And as in a 2004 Assembly race, he backed efforts by California to regulate against climate change.
Poizner has criticized Whitman for giving $300,000 to the Environmental Defense Fund, which supported the global warming law, and mocked her for taking an Arctic cruise to study global warming with a group that included Van Jones, the former environmental czar for President Obama.
"When I was working for him, he was a very green candidate," said Richard Robinson, a consultant on Poizner's 2006 campaign who is a Democrat. "Obviously those views have changed in light of the fact that he's now running in a Republican primary."
This year, he has endorsed a proposed initiative to delay implementation of the emissions rules, set to begin in 2012, until the state unemployment rate decreases, and says after that it should be evaluated to make sure it is in line with what other states are doing.
"It's called global warming; it's not state warming," Poizner said in a March debate with Whitman.
Poizner's spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said there was no inconsistency in the candidate's position on the global warming law. But Agen would not address the apparent contradiction between his support for the law in the internal 2006 e-mail and his stance today in favor of delaying and reevaluating it, saying the e-mail was not a "public statement."
"There are no public statements from Steve about this," Agen said.
Agen said published statements by the participants in the Arctic cruise calling for "urgency" in addressing climate action contradict Whitman's current call to suspend the global warming law, known by its bill name as AB 32, for one year. Her spokesman, Tucker Bounds, said Poizner's shifts show a "character deficit."
"Steve Poizner supported AB 32's passage, lied about it and vilified the law," he said.
Another e-mail described a meeting with "Global Warming folks" on Sept. 1, 2006, that included Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council. A few days later, Poizner wrote an e-mail saying that Cavanagh had endorsed him:
"This is a very significant endorsement.... He is the senior attorney at NRDC and very well known nationally as a leading environmentalist."
In an interview, Cavanagh said he endorsed Poizner personally, not on behalf of his group, because "Steve was running a campaign which had, I thought, substantial environmental content."