Gov. Brown exceeds his authority on greenhouse gas limits

Gov. Brown exceeds his authority on greenhouse gas limits

When Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order last year mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, he said he did it for California’s future. But his motives were irrelevant. He broke the law, says the state’s legislative counsel.

“We think the determination of a standard for the statewide (greenhouse gas) emissions limit is a fundamental policy decision that only the Legislature can make,” California Legislative Counsel Diane F. Boyer-Vine wrote last month. Simply put, the law “does not authorize the (California Air Resources Board) or the governor to set” the emissions limits Brown chose.

Brown’s flouting of the law should not be dismissed as a minor infraction, or the well-intentioned mistake of a public servant zealously trying to do his job. It’s a violation of government design that prevents one branch from consolidating a monarch’s power over the people, and cannot be allowed to simply pass without consequences.

California was once the land of endless possibilities. California Dreamin’ goes back as least as far as the 1849 Gold Rush. The stream to the West Coast was on. The Golden State became a magnet, a destination for a better life.

Abundant resources ready to be developed were the stars before Hollywood arrived. The productive, the ambitious and the innovative worked together to create a bustling business environment teeming with job prospects. Capital flowed in like the water that gushed through the aqueducts and channels that sustained farmers, booming industry and a growing population. The hope to acquire the wealth of the middle class and beyond became a reality for many.

After World War II, cars breezed across California’s modern freeway system; abundant fruits and vegetables from the Central Valley richly fed the state and parts of the nation; the aerospace and defense industries boomed; and the public education system, from elementary schools to universities, was among the best in the country. By 1963, California had become the most populous state in America.

A second surge of prosperity began about 15 years later, driven by constitutionally limited property taxes, government spending limits, elimination of the death tax and income tax rates indexed by inflation. The public sector was harnessed – and, ironically, these changes came during Brown’s first years as governor.

But another wave followed, this one turning California into a merciless state to live in for many. Taxes are high, and so is unemployment. Sacramento routinely spends more than it takes in and is never satisfied with its habitual splurging. Productive Californians are seen as sources of endless revenue. Business owners say the conditions they are expected to operate under are hostile – they are overwhelmed by regulation and taxes.

Meanwhile, the exorbitant cost of living – driven ever higher by a government that feels it has no limits – is hollowing out the middle class, leaving the state as an amusement park for the wealthy, who can afford it, and a sanctuary for the poor, many of whom live off of public assistance.

Despite the government obstacles that have rendered California a paradise lost, Brown wants to add yet another hurdle – severe cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to its unlawfulness, it will be another expensive government intervention, sending energy costs to new highs.

The solution is a reversal of the trend that produced these circumstances. Voters need to understand their role in the disaster and to make better choices.

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Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.