Governor front-runner says he’ll ‘tighten’ fossil fuel rules

Source: Debra Kahn, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2018

California gubernatorial front-runner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said yesterday that he would “tighten” up the state’s fossil fuel extraction policies if elected.

The state’s sole gubernatorial debate, held yesterday on San Francisco NPR affiliate KQED, featured six minutes of climate and energy talk, with Newsom praising outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) policies and international stature and Republican San Diego businessman John Cox emphasizing economics.

The most recent poll, released Sept. 26 by the Public Policy Institute of California, found Newsom with a 12-point lead over Cox, 51 percent to 39 percent, with 7 percent undecided (E&E Daily, Sept. 27).

“I think we’ll tighten them up,” Newsom said in response to a question on the pressure that Brown has faced from the left over his refusal to rein in extraction. “I think fracking is starting to fall on its own petard. Wall Street is the one leading this recognition. You’re seeing interest rates rise; the fracking experiment is beginning to wane. So I think that’s a natural opportunity for the next governor to get a little bit more aggressive as it relates to fracking.”

Newsom also said he would continue California’s presence on the international climate policy stage and work to implement the state’s 2030 greenhouse gas target of 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels.

“California has a responsibility, has an important international role to play,” he said. “I am committed and passionate about that. I want to lead.”

Cox, who said he would “listen to climatologists” on humans’ contributions to climate change, pitted the state’s climate and clean energy goals against the economy.

“People can’t afford to live in this state, and they’re moving out, and our electricity costs and our gasoline costs are pounding the average person,” Cox said. “And it’s all well and good to talk about this wonderful goal that we have; let’s work toward it, but let’s not kill people in terms of their lifestyles.”

Cox said he supported the goals of S.B. 100, the bill that Brown signed last month to raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 60 percent by 2030 and 100 percent “zero-carbon” by 2045, but that it would raise electricity prices and “drive people further into poverty.”

He is also backing a voter initiative on next month’s ballot, Proposition 6, that would repeal last year’s 12-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase.

“I think it’s a wonderful goal to have renewable energy; I’m all in favor, but we can’t keep increasing the cost of electricity,” he said. “I favor nuclear power; I think that can be done cleanly. Natural gas can be done cleanly. I believe we can use technology to ultimately have cars that are much cleaner-burning. But right now, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and we need to make sure that we have backup power.”

Cox also argued that the state’s climate goals are being jeopardized by inadequate forest management, pointing to the wildfires that ravaged urban areas of Northern California last October.

“We’ve done a lot in California to clean the air,” he said. “Frankly, the politicians like Gavin have failed miserably to police the forests. … The carbon released by those fires comprised months of carbon from cars and trucks that we’re working to try to reduce.”