Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/29/2010 07:23:29 PM PDT

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which requires the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, has San Bernardino County officials concerned about its impact on the region’s future economic growth.

Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors, at the urging of Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, unanimously voted to support the California Jobs Initiative, which calls for the suspension of the law, also known as AB 32, until the state’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

The move comes in light of the dismal economic outlook plaguing the county. San Bernardino County’s unemployment rate is at 14.8 percent.

But while the county argues that the law could hinder industry and future industrial, commercial and residential development in years to come, proponents of the law say it actually has been creating jobs and is the crux of the future economy.

Steven Maviglio, spokesman for the Sacramento-based Californians for Clean energy and Jobs, whose sole purpose is to defeat what they call the “dirty energy initiative,” says passage of the California Jobs Initiative would be like taking a wrecking ball to the state’s green energy economy.

He said AB 32 has created a slew of “clean technology” jobs up and down the state.

“AB 32 has been the catalyst for all of this investment, and one of the reasons is venture capital,” Maviglio said, adding that close to $5 billion
is being invested in green energy projects statewide.

A study titled “Many Shades of Green: Diversity and Distribution of California’s Green Jobs,” published in December by the nonpartisan organization Next 10, concluded that between 2007 and 2008, total employment in California fell by 1 percent, while green jobs grew by 5 percent and at a rate 10 times faster than the statewide average. The report also concluded that energy generation jobs in the Inland Empire grew by 50 percent between 1995 and 2008, with a high concentration of them being solar and wind.

Mitzelfelt said he supports renewable energy, but the industry is heavily subsidized – a benefit most industries don’t share.

“It may not necessarily be a level playing field. It may not be apples to apples when you’re talking about job growth,” Mitzelfelt said.

More than 50 applications have been filed with the county in the last year for solar and wind energy projects in Mitzelfelt’s district, which includes much of the High Desert. One of the biggest solar projects under way, the Ivanpah solar complex near the Nevada border, has to set aside 12,000 acres of additional land as mitigation for desert tortoise habitat, which the county and the project applicant, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy, oppose.

While Mitzelfelt said he supports renewable energy projects, the laws that support green energy and the environment need to strike a better balance, and the desert needs to keep room available for other development, not just renewable energy.

“I just don’t want to see overdevelopment of the desert of any kind. Regardless of the total development, there should be a balance,” Mitzelfelt said.

Another concern of Mitzelfelt’s is Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposed California Desert Protection Act of 2010. If passed, it would create the Mojave Trails National Monument, which would protect about 941,000 acres, and add 41,000 acres to Death Valley National Park, 30,000 acres to the Mojave National Preserve and 2,900 acres to Joshua Tree National Park.

Mitzelfelt is concerned about how Feinstein’s proposal would impact mining operations in his district.

“These designations of monuments and preserves, there’s no mining exploration allowed there, so there might be minerals out there we may never know about. It’s one of the problems of these designations,” Mitzelfelt said.

Feinstein’s legislation is pending before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“None of the public lands proposed for conservation by the legislation contain active commercial mines, so no existing mines would be shut down,” Feinstein said in a statement Thursday. “Every active mining claim that was requested to be removed from the bill has been removed.”

In some cases, Feinstein said, cherry stems were added for mines in various places.

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