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Schwarzenegger Urges Voters To Protect California Climate Law

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(AP)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he doesn’t just want to defeat the November ballot measure that would suspend the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law—he wants voters to trounce it to prompt Washington to create a new national energy policy.

Speaking in San Francisco, Schwarzenegger characterized Proposition 23 as a battle between out-of-state oil interests and environmental progress.

“Now, there’s some Texan oil companies, they don’t like our environmental laws,” the Republican governor told the audience at the Willie L. Brown Jr. Institute annual breakfast. “And so I want to ask all of you to do everything you can to make everyone vote ‘no’ on this proposition.”

The petroleum industry has spent millions to promote the measure, which would indefinitely suspend AB32, California’s 2006 law mandating significant emissions reductions by 2020. Supporters say such a move is necessary to protect small businesses and save jobs in a state where unemployment is at 12.4 percent.

Critics say that argument masks greed and self-interest among oil industry executives. They contend AB32 ultimately would create more jobs than it eliminates in the short term.

Schwarzenegger called for voters to send a clear message to Proposition 23’s backers.

“It’s very important that we push back, and it is important that we do it with a huge victory, a huge margin,” he said Tuesday. “Then we can go to Washington and say, ‘Let’s go and set a national energy policy.”’

The governor’s remarks kicked off a series of events organized by Proposition 23 opponents. Later in the day, a group of 68 venture capitalists and investors issued a joint statement against the measure, calling it “shortsighted and counterproductive” and a threat to the state’s position as a clean-energy leader.

In the four years since AB32 was approved, $9 billion has been invested in clean technology in California and more than a million Californians are employed in clean-tech jobs, the statement said.

“This isn’t about wearing hemp and adopting a totally new kind of lifestyle,” said Alan Salzman, CEO and managing partner of the California-based VantagePoint Venture Partners. “Through this innovation, we are driving to make the energy, water and materials we use cheaper and better than today’s fossil fuel-based solutions.”

The investors, who collectively manage more than $415 billion in assets, warned that Proposition 23 could put that innovation in jeopardy.

“Proposition 23 is a classic example of short-term thinking that could destroy long-term opportunity and growth in California,” said Chris Davis, director of investor programs at Ceres, a Boston-based investment network that focuses on environmental sustainability.

A spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The campaign reported raising $8.3 million in the first nine months of this year and has raised at least $724,000 since then.  The bulk of the money has come from three out-of-state oil companies—Valero Corp. and Tesoro Corp. of Texas, and Flint Hills Resources, a Wichita, Kan., company owned by Koch Industries.

The main campaign against Proposition 23 reported $12.6 million in donations as of Sept. 30, with significant backing from the Natural Resources Defense Council and several Northern California investors.

So far this month, the No on 23 campaign has brought in an additional $10.6 million, thanks in part to major donations from the National Wildlife Federation and movie director James Cameron.

Also Tuesday, actor David Arquette was scheduled to appear in Sacramento with green-technology advocates to premiere a series of short films critical of the initiative.

The efforts come on the heels of two recent polls that paint an unclear picture of Proposition 23’s chances. A Field Poll released Sept. 26 found 45 percent of likely voters opposed the measure, while 34 percent supported it.

A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll released the previous week showed 40 percent of voters favoring the measure and 38 percent opposing it. One in five people surveyed said they had not yet taken a position on the initiative.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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