Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt

Regional air quality board deplores law in letter to Sacramento
February 06, 2010 3:42 PM

As the statewide debate rages on over a sweeping climate change law, the local air quality district is urging leaders in Sacramento to suspend or repeal the legislation.

Assembly Bill 32, passed by the California Legislature in 2006 to lower carbon emissions 30 percent by 2020, has triggered staunch opposition from the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District Governing Board, which includes 1st District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt.

Mitzelfelt shared with the Daily Press why he fears the law’s “job-killing” regulations could devastate local industries at a time when the High Desert’s unemployment hovers around 16 percent.

Q: Why should Victor Valley residents care about AB 32?

A: “AB 32 will have zero benefit to the planet, it will have zero benefit for the state or the county or our local community. It won’t affect global warming one iota, but it will kill thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in California and drive them to other states and countries where they don’t have these rules.

“Half of our work force drives a minimum of 40 miles to work every day. That generates way more pollutants than any industry located in our basin. We need jobs close to home so we don’t have tens of thousands of cars on the road spearing pollution every day for so many miles.”

Q: What about the argument that AB 32 is helping California become the nation’s leading state in the clean energy business, which has and will generate thousands of jobs?

A: “We may have difficulty citing even those energy jobs. These clean energy industries, because of the restrictions and the fact that they’re going to have employees driving cars to work, which generates emissions — that has to be mitigated. AB 32 could actually shoot itself in the foot by making a clean power plant like solar and wind (comply).”

Q: How will AB 32 impact local businesses owners?

A: “It’s the worst economy since the Great Depression and the regulations could really put a lot of businesses out of business, such as the cement industry, which in the High Desert is a critical industry and tax base. It’s one of the few industries and stable job providers we have, and if they’re forced to not emit carbon dioxide, there’s really no way to do that when you make cement. It’s actually kind of crazy what we’re talking about having to do, bury it under the ground, feed it to a future algae plant … we’ll be lucky if our cement industry survives this law because of the cost to comply.

“Any business that comes in and generates methane or carbon monoxide or greenhouse gas is going to have to offset that by finding another industry that has reduced theirs and then buying credits from them. It’s like a cap and trade kind of a system. And it’s very difficult for us to do that because we don’t have a lot of industries to choose from, and at the same time we have pollution that is blowing in from other basins that we have to account for.”

Q: If we do want to reduce carbon emissions, what would a realistic goal and timeline be?

A: “I’m not an economist, but I think three years at a minimum. I’d much rather see it repealed altogether. I think it’s insanity personally because California reducing greenhouse gases will not have a meaningful impact. If anything, international bodies should be dealing with this, not local governments.

“AB 115 would wait until the unemployment hits 5.5 percent and in fact that is the best answer to timeline. It shouldn’t be a timeline. We should look at the economy, and the MDAQMD strives to clean the air, but also to do it in a way where we don’t chase away all the jobs.”

Q: The MDAQMD won’t take a stance on global warming. What do you think?

A: “I’m a skeptic of human-caused global warming and I just haven’t been convinced. I think there are enough credible scientists who are not sure that global warming is either happening or is other than a natural phenomenon, and I’m very worried about the economic impact of rolling back all our industrial progress we’ve made as a human race.

“It’s too political. I’m suspicious of anything with that much political impetus behind it. I mean the fact that you can’t have a reasonable conversation with a lot of, I’d say a majority of the proponents of global warming theory, without being insulted, treated like you’re some kind of Neanderthal. People roll their eyes, but the people I know, I’d say almost half of them aren’t totally convinced.”

Q: What do you want to see happen next?

A: “We (the MDAQMD) suggested the Legislature pass that bill (AB 118), and I’m going to be sending a letter to every city and county urging them to do the same. I do believe groundswell from local governments will get attention and action in Sacramento, but if it’s just one air district, it’s not going to change anything.”