What does it mean to have an environmental champion as governor?

Oct 26, 2011
By Jenesse Miller

What does it mean to have a strong environmental champion as governor of California?

Readers of this blog and CLCV’s annual Environmental Scorecard  are familiar with this story: Over the last several years, Governor Jerry Brown’s predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, captivated the international media with a reputation as California’s “green” governor while bewildering and frustrating many advocates for the environment here at home in the Golden State.

In reality, the former governor was an inconsistent advocate for the broad range of environmental issues. Although Governor Schwarzenegger championed some issue areas like climate change, transitioning to renewable energy, and ocean protection, he often failed to deliver on others, including implementing green chemistry rules, protecting state parks and wildlife, expanding recycling, and improving public transit.

In contrast, Governor Brown has been committed to environmental protection and progress in all its variations since day one. Having proved himself a champion for the environment during a lifetime of government service, including as governor decades ago and more recently as California Attorney General, and having campaigned on a bold platform of environmental protection and creating clean energy jobs, Brown earned CLCV’s endorsement in the 2010 governor’s race. His first excellent appointments to key agencies in January of this year was a powerful indication that California’s environment was high on his list of priorities.  (See list of appointments, below).

A landmark clean energy bill

Brown followed up in April by signing the landmark clean energy bill SB 2X, which requires one-third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources (Schwarzenegger had vetoed an earlier version). The legislation increases California’s current 20 percent renewables portfolio standard target in 2010 to a 33 percent renewables portfolio standard by December 31, 2020.

As Brown said at the bill signing ceremony:

“This bill will bring many important benefits to California, including stimulating investment in green technologies in the state, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, improving local air quality, promoting energy independence, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While reaching a 33 percent renewables portfolio standard will be an important milestone, it is really just a starting point - a floor, not a ceiling.”


Standing strong against demands for rollbacks

Alas, the environment then took a backseat for many months to the center stage issue of the state budget. But here, Brown did not disappoint us either. For his next act, Brown held the line against multiple proposed rollbacks of environmental and public health safeguards in the prolonged negotiations around the state budget crisis. He rejected offers made behind closed doors by hard-right legislators to sell out the environment for votes in favor of his proposed budget. Moreover, Governor Brown consistently rejected those lawmakers’ false arguments (which we heard trumpeted by his opponents in last year’s governor’s race) that California must sacrifice a clean environment in the name of economic progress.

Unfortunately, the budget shortfall ultimately forced the painful closure of dozens of California’s state parks, even though Brown’s Administration worked hard to minimize the damage to the parks system.

Signing environmental bills into law

Finally, this month Brown signed the vast majority of the pro-environment bills deemed a priority by the environmental community (including CLCV) that made it to his desk after a tough legislative session. These include: a bill to ban the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups; a bill that would sharply curtail the market for shark fins in California and thus help protect sharks and our ocean ecology; and a package of bills to help ensure access to safe, affordable water for all Californians. In signing these bills, Brown distinguished himself as a “green” politician who can’t be swayed by industry lobbyists, and proved himself, once again, a champion for the environment and public health.

CLCV and our allies look forward to working with Jerry Brown to protect California’s environment and our people and grow the state’s clean energy economy through the rest of his term as governor.

Appointments and Staffing

We enthusiastically applauded Governor Brown’s appointment of a longtime environmental champion, the Honorable John Laird, as California Secretary for Natural Resources, which oversees state parks, waterways, forests, fish and wildlife, and other natural resources. Laird had an impressive record of environmental leadership during his twenty-three years in elected office, including six years in the state Assembly, where he earned an outstanding 100% score for his votes on environmental legislation in CLCV’s annual California Environmental Scorecard.

As noted in CLCV’s 2008 Scorecard, Laird was “the highest-ranking voice for the environment in the inner circle of leadership, the trusted and respected chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, and a dedicated friend and mentor to environmental advocates.” We’re thrilled that Brown wisely appointed Laird to a position where he’s continued to protect California’s natural, historical and cultural resources.

For another important environmental role, Brown reappointed Mary Nichols to head the California Air Resources Board, which is spearheading the state's efforts to combat climate change. Nichols, a former member of the CLCV Board of Directors, first served as ARB Chairman during Brown’s second term from 1979 to 1983. Nichols has held the post since 2007, helping to guide the Board in implementing AB 32, the landmark greenhouse gas emission reduction law.

Among Governor Brown’s other smart environmental appointments and staffing choices:

  • Matt Rodriquez as secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA). Rodriquez has worked for the Department of Justice since 1987, representing the California Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, among others.
  • Kristin Stauffacher as deputy director of legislation at Cal EPA. Stauffacher formerly served as legislative director for environmental champion and State Senator Joe Simitian.
  • Deborah Raphael as director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Raphael was program director for toxics reduction, green business, and green building at the San Francisco Department of the Environment since 1999.
  • Reed Sato as chief counsel for DTSC. Sato formerly served as director of enforcement at the State Water Resources Control Board.
  • Brian Johnson, as deputy director for enforcement at DTSC. Johnson served as the manager for the environmental division for the City of Santa Monica from 2001 to 2006.
  • Janelle Beland as undersecretary of the California Natural Resources Agency. Beland is a former senior advisor and caucus director for Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg.
  • Charlton “Chuck” Bonham as director of the California Department of Fish and Game. Bonham was with trout advocacy organization Trout Unlimited since 2000, holding positions including California director and senior attorney.
  • Caroll Mortensen as director of the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). Mortensen was a consultant to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee and to the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, and was legislative director and integrated waste management specialist at the California Integrated Waste Management Board from 1992 to 2005.
  • Karen Ross as secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture. Ross is an advocate for sustainable farming practices.
  • Hector De La Torre to the Air Resources Board. De La Torre served as a California State Assemblymember of the 50th District from 2004 to 2010. He was instrumental in creating the process known as Green California, which helps more than 70 environmental groups prioritize and advocate for pro-environmental legislation and is facilitated by CLCV’s sister organization the CLCV Education Fund.
  • Wade Crowfoot as deputy director at the Governor's Office of Planning and Research. Crowfoot previously served as West Coast political director for the Environmental Defense Fund and as director of San Francisco’s Climate Protection Initiatives.
  • Martha Guzman-Aceves as deputy legislative secretary for Environment, Energy, Water and Agriculture. Guzman-Aceves was formerly legislative advocate for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation.
  • Bob Weisenmiller as chair of the California Energy Commission. Weisenmiller has more than 30 years of energy expertise, including in electricity and gas markets and California regulatory policies.
  • Nancy Ryan, Ph.D., as deputy executive director for the California Public Utilities Commission. Ryan was a senior economist and California deputy regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund.
  • Martha McClure to the California Coastal Commission. McClure initiated discussions between commercial and sport fishermen, tribes and local environmentalists that produced a unified agreement on marine life protected areas off the Del Norte coast.



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