Home California Progress Report A Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger from His Former Chair of the Air Resources Board

A Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger from His Former Chair of the Air Resources Board

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• “My single regret is that is that you and I never once met during the past 18 months to discuss any of the critical air quality or global warming issues facing California.”

• “Governor Schwarzenegger, your staff has interjected itself in a manner that has compromised the independence and integrity of the board.”

• “Press releases from the Governor’s staff, which are contrary to reality or truth, are a disservice to you and to the people of California.”

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[Editor’s note: Robert Sawyer was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to head the California Air Resources Board, which is given primary responsibility to implement AB 32, the landmark global warming bill and to clean up our state’s air. Before coming to Friday’s Assembly committee hearing, he stopped by the Governor’s office and left this letter. He then read this letter into the committee’s record as his opening remarks.]

Robert F. Sawyer
Class of 1935 Professor of Energy Emeritus
University of California at Berkeley

6 July 2007

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
The State of California
Sacramento, California

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I accepted your appointment to chair the California Air Resources Board because of our common, strong commitments to protecting the environment and to addressing global warming. I am honored to have served as the Board chair for the past 18 months, and I am proud of the Board’s many actions to improve air quality in California and to launch California’s global warming program.

Air Resources Board actions have included: the continuing development of the scientific basis for its actions through a strong research program, the identification of environmental tobacco smoke as a toxic air contaminant, non-regulatory actions with the railroad industry to improve risk assessment and to reduce locomotive emissions, adoption of the emissions reduction plan for the goods movement sector, banning of the use of perchiorethylene for dry cleaning, emission standards for forklifts and other industrial equipment, modifications to the portable equipment registration program, tightening of regulations of hexavalen chrome, regulation of in-use heavy-duty emissions, limiting onboard incineration of oceangoing ships, reduction of toxic emissions from stationary agricultural engines, expansion of the consumer product and aerosol coatings regulations, adoption of a more health protective nitrogen dioxide air quality standard, strengthening of light duty vehicle emissions warranty provisions, reduction of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products, development of the state implementation plan for compliance with the new federal ozone air quality standards including approval of the San Diego and San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Management District plans and on-going multi-level efforts with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, review of the Zero Emissions Vehicle program and instructions to ARB staff for modifications to encourage the production and use of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, consideration of regulations of off-road diesel equipment, adoption of above-ground storage tank emissions regulations, and the planning and initiation of AB32, The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, including the identification of early actions items and other regulations to be considered for adoption by the Air Resources Board.

My single regret is that is that you and I never once met during the past 18 months to discuss any of the critical air quality or global warming issues facing California.

The more than 1000 ARB staff members have rightfully earned the ARB’s reputation as the world’s premier air quality regulatory agency. These scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, support staff, and more have the skills necessary for the conception, design, implementation, and enforcement of environmental regulatory policy. California is fortunate to have their dedicated service. I am proud to have been their leader and their colleague.

The traditional independence of the Air Resources Board has served the people of California well. The ARB has turned the policy directions from the legislature and from the governor into improved air quality. This is a complex process, which, most importantly, consistently has been based on sound science. It is an open process in which members of the public and affected parties express their views at workshops and board hearings. It is a deliberative process that must involve compromise, that must consider both the health of our citizens and the strength of our economy. The ARB uniquely has the expertise, experience, and structure to carry out this process.

The governor’s staff has the task of conveying policy directions from the governor to the ARB. However, Governor Schwarzenegger, your staff has interjected itself in a manner that has compromised the independence and integrity of the board.

The directions your staff and one of your former staff members delivered to me and to other Air Resources Board members just prior to and even during our June board meeting were particularly offensive. Instructions not to propose additional climate change early-action measures to the list of three previously approved by your staff were inappropriate. The actions of your staff also were contrary to the open meeting tradition of board deliberations. Their directions also were contrary to discussions at my preboard meeting with your staff. Following the June board meeting, I met with your Chief of Staff to express my concern and displeasure with both the problem of mixed messages and the level of interference that your staff was exerting upon the Air Resources Board. She rejected both of my concerns and informed me that you had rescinded my appointment five days earlier.

Press releases from the Governor’s staff, which are contrary to reality or truth, are a disservice to you and to the people of California.

The San Joaquin Valley air quality management plan resulted from years of developing the scientific understanding of air quality in the San Joaquin Valley, promoting and assessing the needed technology, understanding the economic implications of alternative control strategies, and, finally, following the legal process outlined in the United States Clean Air Act. The staffs of the San Joaquin Valley Air Quality Management District and of the Air Resources Board developed, and the respective boards, following lengthy public deliberation, adopted a sound plan to bring ozone levels in the San Joaquin Valley into compliance with the new federal 8-hour ozone air quality standard. Both boards instructed their staffs to identify and implement additional measures to accelerate meeting the standard before the deadline. There is no 11-year delay in improving air quality in the San Joaquin Valley: moving the deadline from 2012
to 2023 is the legal construct of the Clean Air Act. There is no mixed message to the United States EPA. The ARB’s aggressive pursuit of a waiver to implement the Pavley greenhouse gas emissions standards for motor vehicles, with your strong support, deals with California’s global warming program. The state implementation plan deals with attainment of the new federal ozone standard. The United States EPA understands this difference.

The statement from your press office that you had encouraged the board to be more aggressive in controlling greenhouse gases and “to adopt a series of more aggressive action items” is contrary to fact. I and other board members were given clear instructions from your staff on the day of the board meeting that the direction from the governor’s office was to limit early action items to the three that had been agreed upon. Your Cabinet Secretary clearly directed in a voicemail message to me on the morning of the board meeting: “…we really prefer you to stick to the three [early action measures] That is the direction from the governor’s office.”

Your staff does not have sufficient expertise or experience in, or understanding of, the science, technology, economics, or legal aspects of air pollution control to direct the Air Resources Board in its work. The ARB staff members are professionals, and they will not let you down. Air Resources Board members represent a broad range of the California politics, professions, and expertise with a common commitment to clean air, and they will not let you down. Please instruct your staff to trust the ARB staff and board members to carry out California’s air quality and global warming programs.

Finally, Governor Schwarzenegger, I urge you to hire a personal science advisor who can counsel you on the science and technology of air pollution and global warming and who understands the economics and law of these issues.

Sincerely,
Robert F. Sawyer, PhD

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