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California Budget Deal Puts Economy, Environment and Public Health at Greater Risk

February 19, 2009

Broken System Allowing a Few Legislators to Hold Up Budget Must Be Fixed

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today called for reforms to prevent a minority of legislators acting on behalf of special business interests from demanding policy changes that are irrelevant to the budget process resulting in lengthy, painful and costly delays. One possible solution to prevent costly budget stalemates is repealing California’s unique status as one of only three states requiring a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass a budget.

Early Thursday, California legislators ended a three-months-long stalemate and passed a budget that included GOP demands to weaken laws that protect Californians from pollution. The budget stalemate also brought massive public works projects to a halt and has earned the state the lowest state credit rating in the country.

“A few leaders exploited the state’s financial crisis and supermajority requirement to reach a back-room deal that weakens environmental protections,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of the California Transportation and Air Initiative for Environmental Defense Fund. “This is no way to govern and no way to keep California healthy and solvent.”

“Californians are at greater health risk today from pollution than they were just three months ago, when Republican legislative leaders and then the Governor presented environmental rollback proposals,” concluded Phillips. “Fortunately, Assembly Speaker Bass and Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg held the line against many of the demands. Otherwise, the public would face an even greater rollback in protections.”

The bill package adopted as part of the budget weaken a 2007 rule to cut air pollution from construction equipment, exempt 10 transportation projects from environmental review, and make it easier for the state to sell off property, including park service property, without going through environmental review.

Toxic pollutants from off-road vehicles — largely construction equipment — are responsible for 1,100 premature deaths in California each year, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The off-road rule — the first statewide rule in the nation to require construction companies to retrofit existing heavy equipment to reduce these toxic pollutants — is expected to prevent 4,000 premature deaths in California over the course of the regulation between 2009 and 2030, according to CARB.

About Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members nationwide and 100,000 in California. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems. For more information, visit www.edf.org.

    Contacts:
    Kathryn Phillips,
    916-893-8494-c,
    kphillips@edf.org

    Lori Sinsley,
    415/293-6097,
    lsinsley@edf.org

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund


Source: newswire



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