SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A coalition of business groups turned in signature petitions Monday for a ballot initiative that would unravel Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's top environmental priority.
If the California Jobs Initiative qualifies for the November ballot, as expected, voters will be asked to consider putting the brakes on the nation's most far-reaching global warming law.
Schwarzenegger immediately blasted "greedy oil companies" for trying to set back his sweeping environmental policy.
The 2006 law, known as AB32, seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California and imposes new requirements on power plants, manufacturers and other businesses.
A number of business groups warn that regulations needed to enact the law would cost jobs and prompt billions of dollars in higher energy prices. John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Business California, said that's a cost businesses cannot shoulder as they struggle in a weak economy.
"While the goals of AB32 are admirable, clearly the implementation of this at this time ... would be a death knell for many small businesses," Kabateck said at a news conference.
The initiative would delay climate regulations until California's unemployment rate — now at 12.6 percent — drops to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. That's only happened three times in the past three decades, according to California Employment Development Department statistics.
Economists expect California's job recovery will be slow.
"That could be a really long way off," Brad Kemp, director of regional research at Beacon Economics, said of the 5.5 percent benchmark. "It's like saying we have to get to full capacity before we can even begin to consider this."
Kemp has forecast the unemployment rate will still exceed 8 percent in 2015.
The ballot initiative is largely being funded by Texas oil companies that oppose climate regulations in California and similar legislation moving through Congress. Valero Services Inc. has given $500,000, while Tesoro Cos. has given $275,000.
Schwarzenegger vowed to fight the initiative if it qualifies for the ballot.
"We will do everything we can in this state to raise money, bring stakeholders together," the governor said.
Schwarzenegger said the state will continue to lead the nation with its strong environmental policy.
"California is 40 percent more energy efficient than the rest of the country," he said. "Now greedy oil companies want to roll back that cut, they want us to depend on just oil."
Environmental groups, utilities and green technology companies claim the oil companies are striving to topple California's law and derail climate legislation in Congress.
"This is not a suspension. What we're talking about is a repeal," said Jan Schori, former general manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, who has joined the campaign to oppose the initiative.
"From my perspective, I would say the oil companies, instead of spending money on this initiative, should be in the Gulf of Mexico dealing with their own problem," he said.
Supporters of the initiative submitted more than 800,000 signatures to county registrars. About 434,000 verified signatures are needed to qualify for the November ballot.