The Los Angeles Times reports that environmentalists are protesting Governor Carbonator’s proposal to fast-track infrastructure spending by exempting some projects from environmental regulations:
Reporting from Sacramento — Efforts to bridge California’s budget abyss collapsed last week as talks hit a formidable roadblock — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s demand that long-standing environmental protections be stripped from 10 big highway projects.
The governor’s aides say his plan would give the financially strained state a $1.2-billion economic boost and create 22,000 jobs over the next three years. Environmentalists say the governor is backpedaling from the heavily publicized push to curb global warming that landed him on magazine covers delicately balancing a globe on a beefy finger.
Schwarzenegger is proposing that the California Department of Transportation forge ahead with some construction projects that are tied up in court over environmental issues. One is a $165-million carpool-lane expansion on U.S. 50 in Sacramento that a judge has delayed because of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could generate, among other concerns.
Protections would also be lifted on a freeway-widening project through an ecologically sensitive area of coastal San Diego County and on a controversial plan to drill a tunnel into the Berkeley Hills. And Schwarzenegger wants to empower a panel of his appointees to waive environmental rules on other projects.
Schwarzenegger has infuriated the Sierra Club and other groups with such proposals and with a letter he sent to President-elect Barack Obama last week asking that federal environmental reviews be waived on the highway projects.
“This is a stunning turnaround by the governor, and I am baffled by it,” said Tom Adams, board president of the California League of Conservation Voters.
Schwarzenegger says that the projects can be completed without environmental ruin and that with the incoming Obama administration proposing to pump huge sums into public-works projects, California needs to be ready to jump.
“What is important here is not to have projects ready in three years from now, which can happen with the environmental approvals and other kind of red tape that you go through,” Schwarzenegger said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “So I think it is important to see what projects you have ready to go now.”
Governor Schwarzenegger is 100 percent correct here and it will be interesting to see if Obama can reign in the environmentalists as he tries to use expensive and environmentally suspect alternative-energy technologies as the way to spend us out of a recession.