The Governator: Fighting oil villains or making life easier for them?

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Earth! Fire! Wind! Water!

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle contains an opinion piece by David Horsey commending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, for taking Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero to task for attempting to subvert California’s landmark global warming legislation, AB 32.

Titled “The Governator battles villains with ‘black oil hearts,’” the piece casts Schwarzenegger as an environmental superhero facing off against a band of greedy cowboys. Tesoro and Valero have sunk millions into Proposition 23, the deceptively titled “California Jobs Initiative,” which would suspend implementation of the greenhouse-gas reduction law until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. Prospects are dim for such a market condition anytime soon.

“It is electrifying to hear a Republican politician expose the big corporations that relentlessly subvert public policy and the national interest,” Horsey notes. “Arnold Schwarzenegger might be leaving office with a mixed record of accomplishment, but when it comes to challenging these modern-day bandits of industry, he could be the boldest action hero we've got.”

Schwarzenegger deserves credit for taking a stand against oil-industry giants on this particular issue, but he’s no environmental action hero. On Sept. 30, The Governator vetoed legislation that would have improved the state’s capability to respond to oil spills.

AB 234, authored by Assembly Member Jared Huffman, would have required large vessels to deploy oil containment booms prior to fuel transfers. The Dubai Star oil spill occurred during a fuel transfer, and the precautionary measure could have lessened the impact.

Additionally, the bill would have increased existing oil fees to bolster funding for the state’s oil spill prevention and response efforts. And it would have required the State Lands Commission to report on safeguards for offshore oil drilling and response plans in the event of the failure of an oil rig’s blowout preventer. The BP oil spill demonstrated how dire the consequences can be if such a failure occurs.

“With his veto of AB 234, Governor Schwarzenegger failed miserably when it came to protecting California’s environment, public health, seabirds, and our coastal waters from oil spills,” said Marcie Keever, Oceans & Vessels Campaign Director at Friends of the Earth, which sponsored the bill along with Pacific Environment.  “Assembly Member Huffman and the Legislature worked extremely hard this year to craft AB 234 to protect the people and resources of the state of California -- and with a few strokes of his pen the Governor struck a significant blow to public health and our environment.”

Schwarzenegger may have publicly reprimanded the Texas oil cowboys for bankrolling Prop. 23, but he’s no Captain Planet.