Gov. Brown announces re-election bid, citing his climate agenda

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E reporter • Posted: Sunday, March 2, 2014

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced yesterday he would run for re-election, citing his work on climate change, renewable energy and high-speed rail. Environmental groups responded with concerns about his lack of action on fracking.The 75-year-old governor — whose candidacy had been widely anticipated for months — made his announcement via Twitter, with a link to a statement highlighting climate change and the state’s crippling drought as key issues.”We live in unprecedented times,” he said, citing the state’s historic drought as a “portent of weather to come.”

“The climate itself is changing, threatening catastrophic and irreversible damage to the oceans and natural systems on which human beings and other forms of life depend,” he said.

Brown praised California’s carbon-cutting, renewable energy and clean transportation policies but warned that the problem of climate change requires others to act. “[T]his is a global problem and only by acting both locally and globally do we have any chance of reducing the unrelenting increase of heat-trapping gasses,” he said.

He also touted his ability to work with “oil companies and environmentalists” as proof of his ability to get past partisan politics.

“I said that I would work with both Democrats and Republicans, oil companies and environmentalists, unions and business, and I have,” he said.

That statement inflamed opponents of some of his environmental policies of the past three years, particularly groups that have been unsuccessfully pushing for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. They say that pumping water and chemicals underground to release oil trapped in shale formations will lead to huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Since when is ignoring us and exacerbating climate change considered ‘working with enviros,’” the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party Environmental Caucus, R.L. Miller, said on Twitter.

Green groups hope for changes on fracking, delta tunnels

A law passed last year to regulate fracking, S.B. 4, split the environmental community, with some arguing that it was too permissive (EnergyWire, Nov. 18, 2013). Since then, groups have called for Brown to declare a moratorium on a number of grounds, including fracking’s water use, greenhouse gas emissions and the risk of earthquakes from drilling.

Last week, two state senators introduced a bill that would place a moratorium on all forms of “extreme well stimulation,” including fracking and other techniques, until a “comprehensive, independent and multi-agency review exploring the economic, environmental and public health impacts is complete” (E&ENews PM, Feb. 21).

“It just galls me that he talks about acting locally while at the same time he’s greenlighting the state for fracking,” Miller said in an interview. “If he really cares that much about climate, why isn’t he doing anything about the stuff that is within his control?”

Another fracking opponent said she saw hope that Brown would support a moratorium in his second term in office.

“I feel like he’s going to come around at some point,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “I haven’t ruled it out.”

Other issues on which Brown has deviated from environmentalists include his support for a project to build massive tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to send water south and his willingness to alter the California Environmental Quality Act, a 1970 law that requires a review of any project needing state or local approval. Environmentalists were wary of reform efforts in the state Legislature last year, worried that they would protect development projects from lawsuits brought on environmental grounds.

Since Brown’s next term would be his last, he’s likely to be more focused on his legacy, Phillips said. (Brown’s first two terms as governor, from 1975 to 1983, predated the state’s term limits.)

Brown had a decisive majority over Republican candidate state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly in a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. Fifty-three percent of likely voters said in January that they would vote for Brown, with 17 percent favoring Donnelly and 28 percent unsure. The poll was taken Jan. 14-21 and had a 3.8-point margin of error (E&ENews PM, Feb. 27).

And even though he declared his candidacy just yesterday, Brown has been receiving donations at a rapid clip, with $7 million raised in the last half of 2013 and nearly $17 million on hand, according to campaign finance reports from last month. Donnelly raised just under $300,000 in the same period. More money appears to be going to a Republican candidate who entered the race last month, former U.S. Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Neel Kashkari, who said that he raised $976,000 in the first two weeks of his candidacy.

Kashkari, who is running on a platform of jobs and education, issued a statement questioning Brown’s policies. He has dubbed Brown’s plan to build a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco a “crazy train” and has said he’d cancel it if elected.

“Californians can’t afford another four years of Gov. Brown’s failed leadership,” Kashkari said. “It’s time for a new leader in Sacramento who will do the hard work of creating good jobs and giving every kid a quality education — and that’s the reason I’m running for governor.”