When it comes to the environment, California Governor Jerry Brown has two faces. There’s the Jerry Brown that says all the things that environmentalists want to hear as evidenced in his January 18 State of the State speech. During the speech, Brown listed environmental concerns among the state’s priorities. Those environmental concerns included building renewable energy and reducing pollution and greenhouse gases. Brown said in his speech that fossil fuels “create ever rising costs to our economy and to our health.”
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) applauded Brown for his State of the State speech in a statement. “The Governor recognized that a healthy environment is an essential tool to re-energize California’s economy,” the statement said. “Investing in homegrown clean energy sources, including energy efficiency is what California does best, and the Governor is right on in singling out these areas in his agenda for economic growth in the year ahead.”
The NRDC is right to applaud Brown for a great speech, but too bad it was only a speech. Meet the other environmental face of Brown. Less than two weeks after the speech, a Los Angeles Times article revealed that a top state regulator and his deputy were removed by Brown last year after “ignoring pressure from Governor Jerry Brown to relax rules for companies seeking to tap California’s oil.” In October, Brown asked officials to develop a permitting shortcut for firms that want to use underground injection, what the article calls a “risky method of oil extraction common in California.” Underground injection, according to the article, uses steam, water and chemicals to flush out depleted oil wells, according to the article.
The Department of Conservation head Derek Chernow wrote a memo against relaxing the rules on underground injection, stating that it would violate environmental laws. Chernow was fired a week after writing the memo, and a replacement was appointed who agreed to allow shortcuts.
California is the most populous state in the union, and there is an old political saying, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” Governor Brown sets a bad example for other governors by speaking of environmental concerns on one side of his mouth, while asking officials to create shortcuts for a method of oil extraction known to cause pollution and damage the environment.
Photo credit: Flickr user, jurvetson