Candidates for California governor clash on environmental issues

A recent survey shows that 56 percent of those likely to cast a ballot in the November election said candidates’ positions on environmental issues are “very important” in determining who they would support for California governor.  

The survey by the Public Policy Institute of California comes as gubernatorial candidates John Cox and Gavin Newsom clash on many plans and environmental policies that backers believe will make the state a greener and cleaner place to live.

Cox, a San Diego-area businessman, opposes two of the state’s most prominent policies for reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions: the state’s cap-and-trade program that requires businesses to buy credits to emit greenhouse gases, and legislation mandating that the state produce 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2045.

During a radio debate earlier this week, Cox said he opposes the legislation that was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown because it will hike up electricity prices.

"It’s a wonderful, lofty goal to have; I certainly want the air to be clean,’’ he said. “But we’re going to keep pounding people of this state into poverty. Electricity prices in this state are almost twice what Texas pays."  

Newsom, California’s Democratic lieutenant governor, supports the clean energy mandate and even claims the state can surpass its goal by positioning itself as a net exporter of energy to other states and nations. 

“It’s a money maker for us and the natural next step in our global leadership – a classic example of California innovation,’’ Newsom claims.

Newsom also hopes to grow the state’s 318,000 clean economy jobs by expanding research and development partnerships, strengthening policies and programs that expand the use of clean energy technologies, and safeguarding against federal actions that he said seek to erode California’s environmental leadership.  

When it comes to water policy, Newsom said the state’s drought was a wake-up call to the impacts of climate change and the need to rethink the way California uses water. 

Newsom backs drip irrigation to reduce water waste and remote sensing technology to get a handle on the amount of water that is needed to irrigate both fields and residential yards.

If elected, he also hopes to replenish groundwater basins and increase the use of recycled water. He also promises to reduce the number of people (upwards of a million) who live in homes with contaminated drinking water. 

For his part, Cox said Sacramento has failed to provide necessary funding and direction to build adequate surface water storage to address water shortages. 

He said the state should fund projects such as the Sites Reservoir north of Sacramento, even if it means tapping into a $16 billion reserve fund. 

“We’ve got to maintain and build reservoirs. We’ve got to build recycling and yes, we can do desalination,’’ Cox said.

Cox is against the governor’s multi-billion-dollar proposal to bore twin tunnels 30 miles across the Sacramento River Delta to move water from Northern California to Southern California, saying the project does not adequately balance the need for water against the need to preserve natural fisheries. Newsom supports a one-tunnel option as more cost-effective.