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Schwarzenegger's Abysmal Environmental Legacy

The Myth of the "Jolly Green Giant" Exposed

by DAN BACHER

Political leaders, NGO representatives and the corporate media have incessantly greenwashed the deplorable environmental legacy of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a series of photo opportunities, press releases, news conferences and awards ceremonies over the past several months. This disgusting campaign by the Governor and his collaborators to portray Schwarzenegger as the "Jolly Green Giant" is bound to get even worse as Schwarzenegger prepares to leave office.

On December 2, Schwarzenegger accepted an award from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld for his "environmental leadership."

According to a news release from the Governor’s office, "The award ceremony coincides with the celebration of U.S. EPA’s 40th anniversary. Governor Schwarzenegger has made California a national and world leader in enacting some of the most ambitious policies to fight climate change, including: AB 32, a first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases; the world’s first Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and a directive for the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations increasing California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 33 percent by 2020."

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and E2 also gave Arnold the first-ever "climate leadership" award for his cap and trade corporate "green" energy scams at an event at Bimbo’s in San Francisco on October 28.

Greenwashing of the Governor’s record is nothing new. The mainstream media and corporate environmental NGO’s have worshipped Schwarzenegger as the "Green Governor" since he took office in November 2003, in spite of his relentless war on fish, fishermen and California Indian Tribes and his complete subservience to corporate water privateers, agribusiness and southern California water agencies.

On April 14, 2010, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., greenwashed the abysmal environmental record of Schwarzenegger by honoring him with an "environmental advocacy" award at the Hudson Riverkeeper’s annual "Fisherman’s Ball" in New York City.. This was done in spite of a protest where three grassroots environmentalists were arrested for exercizing their rights of freedom of speech and assembly.

However, Schwarzenegger’s real environmental legacy is much different from how Schwarzenegger and his collaborators portray it. What is his actual environmental record?

? Schwarzenegger allowed the Department of Water Resources to pump record levels of water out of the Delta from 2003 to 2007, resulting in the Central Valley salmon and California Delta pelagic species collapses.The largest annual water export levels in history occurred in 2003 (6.3 million acre feet), 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increasing to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007, a rise of almost 30 percent, according to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance.

? He has constantly attacked two federal biological opinions, released in 2009, protecting Delta smelt, Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, green sturgeon and southern resident killer whales.

? His administration did nothing while tens of thousands of striped bass, Sacramento blackfish, Sacramento splittail and other species perished during a levee repair project at Prospect Island in the California Delta in November 2007.

? He has vetoed numerous environmental bills, including vetoing a badly needed bill sponsored by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) in 2008 that would provide for emergency fish rescue plans on the Delta.

? He has consistently slashed funding for game wardens in the field while California has the lowest ratio of wardens to residents of any state in the nation.

? He has constantly directed the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board to continue to grant waivers to agricultural polluters, in spite of the dire condition of Delta fisheries.

? Since 2004, he has fast-tracked a controversial Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative filled with conflicts of interest and corruption. Rather than creating marine protected areas that truly protect the ocean, this initiative kicks sustainable fishermen, Indian tribal members and seaweed harvesters off the water while refusing to deal with pollution, coastal development, military testing, wave energy projects and other human uses of the ocean that imperil marine life and ecosystems.

? As Schwarzenegger fast-tracked the privately-funded MLPA fiasco, he twice vetoed two crab pot limit bills needed to preserve California crab fisheries.

? Schwarzenegger introduced a bill that would allow the lame-duck Governor to choose 25 development projects each year that would be exempt from the state’s strict standards under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

? The Governor’s Office of Pesticide Regulation on December 1, 2010 inexplicably approved methyl iodide to replace the soil fumigant methyl bromide, even though methyl iodide is even more toxic to animals, fish and people than methyl bromide.

However, the "crown jewel" of Schwarzenegger’s water policies is his campaign to build a peripheral canal/canal and new dams through his Delta Vision and Bay Delta Conservation Plan processes. This construction of a canal/tunnel, estimated to cost anywhere from $23 to $53.8 billion, is likely to lead to the extinction of Central Valley steelhead, Sacramento River chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon, Sacramento splittail and other species.

In his zeal to build the canal, Schwarzenegger attempted to sabotage the campaign by the Klamath, Yurok, Karuk and Hoopa Valley Tribes, fishermen and environmentalists to remove four Klamath River dams by making $250 million for dam removal contingent upon the voters’ passage of an unpopular water bond that creates the infrastructure for a peripheral canal and new dams. Because it would have faced certain defeat at the polls this November, Schwarzenegger and the Legislative leadership postponed the water bond until November 2012.

In addition, the Schwarzenegger administration has granted agribusiness permits to divert water from the Scott and Shasta rivers, resulting in the de-watering of these Klamath River tributaries at tremendous risk to endangered coho salmon. Schwarzenegger’s "scorched earth" policy towards the Scott and Shasta forced Earthjustice to file a lawsuit against the Department of Fish and Game on behalf of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Klamath Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, the Quartz Valley Indian Tribe, Northcoast Environmental Center and Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC).

While his record regarding fishery and water issues is arguably the worst of any Governor in California history, Schwarzenegger’s portrayal by the corporate media and corporate environmental NGOs as a relentless advocate for "clean energy" is also very deceptive. Former Senator Sheila Kuel eloquently exposed the myth of the "Jolly Green Giant" in her article, "A Lame Duck Governor Fabricates A Hoped-For Legacy," in the California Progress Report on July 29.

"One of the myths Arnold has floated out to the world is the story of his wonderful environmental credentials," said Kuehl."He takes credit for Senator Fran Pavley’s greenhouse gas bill that is now under attack in the November election in an initiative sponsored and funded by Texas oil companies. However, virtually minutes after he signed AB 32 and had multiple press conferences touting this act, he issued an Executive Order undermining the center of the bill, which was environmental regulation of greenhouse gases, and, instead, insisted on joining a multi-state cap and trade system, creating a market for pollution. This solution was allowed in AB 32, but only after stricter regulations were in place."

"In addition, in every single budget negotiation, he has insisted on ‘waiving’ (read: doing away with) the requirements of the California Environmental Protection Act for big construction projects. He adopted and further promulgated the myth that analyzing the environmental effects of projects (which is all CEQA does) was tantamount to stopping them and that, therefore, that step should be skipped," Kuehl concluded.

We cannot allow Schwarzenegger’s deplorable environmental legacy to be greenwashed. People who care about the restoration of collapsing Central Valley salmon and Delta fish populations, environmental justice and the truth must counter the myths being spread about the "Jolly Green Giant" every chance they get!

DAN BACHER can be reached at: Danielbacher@fishsniffer.com