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Problems in La-la land

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Nationally there has been a lot of talk about how California is the standard bearer for global warming and clean energy policy. It appears that when the actual work starts the results are not so rosy. The LA Times reported today the resignation of Catherine Witherspoon, Executive Director of the California Air Resources Board, who left saying that the Schwarzenegger administration "has lost its way on air quality." This comes on the heals of the firing of Richard Sawyer, the board chairman, by Schwarzenegger for aggressively pursuing global warming gas emission reductions.In an interview, Witherspoon said,  

"...there had been a pattern of interference by the governor's top staff in favor of industry lobbyists seeking to weaken or stall air pollution regulations, including the state's landmark global warming law...They were ordering us to find ways to reduce costs and satisfy lobbyists"

She also called out state Democrats for being more focused on playing partisan politics than on making the tough decisions about exactly what industries need to do what. Schwarzenegger has advocated for a statewide cap-and-trade system while Democrats have called for mandatory limits. Witherspoon says, "both approaches were needed."Gov. Schwarzenegger's staff counters that,

"What's important for the administration is to make sure the right leadership is put in place at [the air resources board] and that this state is able to aggressively meet its AB 32 commitment and clean its air," said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's deputy chief of communications, who dismissed Witherspoon's charges as the comments of a disgruntled employee.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, author of the landmark AB32, is calling for hearings into the loss of members of the team working on implementing California's global warming legislation, saying that

"I don't want this issue to impact our fight on global warming," he said. "The spotlight is on California, and I don't want people in other states to say, 'Oh, look at California. AB 32 is falling apart, so we're not going to do anything either.' "

Witherspoon's 27 year career on the CARB ends with the parting shot,

"I'm happy to be going out with a roar and not a whimper. My objective is to make sure people understand what is going on so it can be straightened out."