Keeping his election year pro-environmentalism theme in tact, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday pushed further and harder for a continued ban on new drilling offshore and on federal lands onshore.
Schwarzenegger called a press conference in the state capitol, joining with state and regional environmental group leaders, to highlight California’s filing of a petition with the U.S. Agriculture Secretary to help permanently protect 21% of the state’s 18 national forests.
“Preserving and protecting California’s environment for future generations is a top priority for my administration,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger in a prepared statement. “We are taking action to keep our pristine forests roadless and in their natural state. It is critical that we safeguard these areas. They are home to plants and animals at risk of extinction, provide incredible recreation and are the source of drinking water for millions of Californians.”
The California governor took this action after urging Congress on Wednesday not to “weaken federal protections against offshore oil drilling” in the ongoing consideration of the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act. Schwarzenegger sent letters to Senate members on the House passage of the act, along with a copy to Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), a chief proponent of the measure.
In a separate but related development regarding onshore drilling, California became the fifth state on Wednesday to ask Congress to keep the Clinton administration’s ban on commercial development on national forest lands. Last year, the Agriculture Department scrapped the so-called “roadless rule” that had blocked energy development and other commercial activities on 58 million acres of forest land nationwide, replacing it with a process that allows individual governors to preserve the roadless protections or push for development.
In conjunction with California’s 13-page petition, the state Resources Agency said it is appealing the four Southern California forest plans concurrent with the filing of the governor’s roadless petition. Schwarzenegger had promised more than a year earlier that “roadless areas in California will remain roadless.”
The California governor’s political advisers promoted the fact that Wednesday’s actions are consistent with Schwarzenegger’s push this year to establish a Sierra Nevada conservancy, protect the state’s 1,000-mile coastline, cut back on power plant and factory emissions to right global warming, promoting more clean transportation alternatives, and push solar energy with a 10-year, million-solar-roofs statewide effort.
Offshore, Schwarzenegger bashed the House-passed bill as potentially being “the beginning of the end of [current drilling] protections.” He said he will to “oppose this bill in the strongest terms.” While not ruling out accepting an amended bill, the California governor said “certain things are not negotiable.” He said promises of increased federal funding or promises of more money will not change his mind.
“Because of our efforts, California’s per-capita energy use has remained nearly flat, while nationwide energy use per-capita has increased by nearly 50%,” Schwarzenegger said.
The California governor suggested that Congress “change the debate,” and begin talking about what he called “a comprehensive energy policy that incorporates the full range of energy efficiency measures and alternative energy sources” that he thinks can keep the nation running without having to do further offshore drilling.
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