The war to derail California's landmark greenhouse emissions law is on, launched this week by an initiative signature-gathering drive reportedly bankrolled by two large oil companies.
Unlike most ballot measure campaigns, however, even Republican Assemblyman Dan Logue who helped craft the proposal is balking at identifying who is forking out big bucks.
Texas-based Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., both outspoken critics of national efforts to cap greenhouse gases, are primary financial backers of the California petition drive, key sources told The Bee.
The initiative would suspend California's landmark clean-air law, Assembly Bill 32, which was passed in 2006 and requires the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2006.
California law requires contributors and amounts donated to the petition drive to be identified in documents filed with the secretary of state, but not immediately. After initiative committees collect or spend $50,000 or more, they are obligated to report donors of $5,000 or more within 10 calendar days, said Roman Porter, executive director of the state Fair Political Practices commission.
Meanwhile, Logue and Ted Costa, two authors of the measure, are referring inquiries to the public relations and political consulting firm of Goddard Claussen, which will discuss the initiative but not its money.
"Right now, we're not commenting on funders," said Jennifer Dudikoff of Goddard Claussen. "We expect support from a very broad group of individuals, companies and associations who are currently concerned with keeping and creating jobs in California."
Steve Maviglio, spokesman for a coalition fighting the initiative, Californians for Clean Energy & Jobs, claims there is good reason for the opposition's secrecy: Voter backlash.
"It's not surprising that Texas oil companies want to run a stealth campaign because California voters don't want out-of-state polluters trying to buy their way onto the ballot," said Maviglio, representing a coalition of industry and environmental groups.
Bill Day, Valero spokesman, declined to comment on a published report in the New York Times identifying the company, and Tesoro, as deep pockets behind the signature-gathering.
"We haven't said one way or the other," Day said. "We'll let the campaign finance reports speak for themselves when they come out. I'm not sure when that will be. We have referred all questions on that issue to a PR firm called Goddard Claussen."
Valero has been "pretty outspoken in its opposition" to AB 32 and to national efforts to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, Day said. A Valero Web site, voicesforenergy.org, provides a form letter of protest for consumers to send to Congress.
Tesoro officials did not return phone calls today.
Logue, R-Linda, told The Bee last month that he had secured funding promises of $600,000 for the initiative. That figure has risen to $1.6 million to launch the signature-gathering drive, sources told The Bee today.
Dudikoff, of Goddard Claussen, said only that the campaign has adequate funding to complete its signature gathering. It needs to gather 434,000 voter signatures by mid-April to qualify for the November ballot.
The ballot measure would suspend AB 32 until California's unemployment rate, currently more than 12 percent, falls to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.
Opponents contend that the four-quarter threshold for reinstatement essentially would kill AB 32 because state records show that California has met the requirement only three times in the past three decades.
AB 32, pushed by Democrats and touted as part of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's legacy, targets greenhouse gas emissions that supporters say is hiking global temperatures and threatening to exacerbate environmental problems.
The measure demands that California change in ways ranging from cracking down on gas-guzzling vehicles to capping industrial pollution, requiring more renewable energy, encouraging solar roofs, and increasing energy-efficiency standards in buildings.
Schwarzenegger, through a political adviser, criticized the initiative campaign today.
"Like a lot of Californians, the governor is concerned that an out-of-state oil company is willing to kill California jobs to increase their profit margin," said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's political spokesman.
Mendelsohn also ripped the initiative campaign's unwillingness to promptly identify its financial backers, saying, "If you are going to fund a campaign, you shouldn't be surreptitious about it."
Long-term economic impacts of AB 32 spark heated disagreement.
AB 32 supporters contend the measure places California in the forefront of the green-technology movement and will attract hordes of jobs in that fledgling industry for decades to come.
Opponents disagree, saying that costs will rise significantly for consumers and take a heavy toll on the economy as tighter regulations force changes in business operations.
Dudikoff said the ballot measure simply would delay AB 32 until times get better.
"I just think it's an appropriate time for us to focus on job creation and recovering our economy," she said.
Ann Notthoff, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, countered in a written statement that "this deceptive initiative would kill hundreds of thousands of jobs and chill billions of dollars in investment in clean energy and other green-tech jobs."