Environment & Science

Report: Prop. 23 supporters are major polluters

SACRAMENTO -- The Texas-based oil companies that are the primary backers of a November ballot effort to suspend California's global warming law are among the state's biggest polluters, according to a report issued Tuesday by two groups advocating for inner-city residents.

Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp. have contributed more than $4.5 million to Proposition 23, which seeks to suspend a 2006 law intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their contributions represent nearly 75 percent of the funding for the initiative.

If voters approve the proposition, the global warming law would not take effect until unemployment falls to 5.5 percent and stays there for a year. That has happened just three times during the past three decades, according to California Employment Development Department statistics.

California's unemployment rate, now at 12.3 percent, has been above 12 percent for months.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed Valero's oil refinery in Benicia as the fourth largest emitter of chemicals in the state in 2009. Tesoro's refinery in Martinez ranked eighth.

The report was released by the Oakland-based Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which promotes alternatives to violence an incarceration in urban neighborhoods, and the California Environmental Justice Alliance, a group based in Huntington Park that advocates for policies protecting the environment in low-income neighborhoods.

It says that since 2008, Tesoro has been fined more than $1.8 million by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for violating air quality regulations. The violations included excessive emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate pollution, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and smog-forming pollutants.

The report also says Valero disclosed in January that it had 29 outstanding violation notices from the South Coast Air Quality Management District and was pursuing a settlement.

"It shows that they're one of the biggest polluters in the state, and they're willing to spend millions of dollars at the ballot box instead of cleaning up their mess," said Steve Maviglio, spokesman for the "No on 23" campaign.

The proposition's supporters called the report a ploy designed to distract voters from the real issues of the campaign. Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the "Yes on 23" campaign, said the 2006 global warming law, commonly referred to as AB32, would cost California businesses billions of dollars, leading to a loss of more than 1 million jobs.

"The two energy companies singled out for misplaced demonization are in fact major California employers that provide jobs and benefits for thousands of California workers and their families," Mangels said in a statement.

Studies have reached different conclusions about whether the law would lead to job losses in California or would end up promoting job growth over the long term by giving a boost to the green-technology industry.

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