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Petition to Kill California's Anti-Pollution Legislation Is Off to a Rocky, Slimy Start

05/12/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So it's been over a week since Texas oil refiners (and two of California's worst polluters) Valero and Tesoro ponied up close to $2 million to launch a petition drive to get an initiative on the November ballot to kill AB 32, California's nation-leading legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels and encourage job creation in the booming green/clean energy and tech industries. Naturally, Valero, Tesoro and assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Chino), one of the initiative's primary sponsors, are doing their best to keep Texas Big Oil's involvement in the petition a secret, refusing to confirm or deny that Valero/Tesoro are actually the sole funders of the signature drive and stand to profit from insuring that Californians continue to breath some of the dirtiest, most unhealthy air in the nation.

Unfortunately for them, the secret is out. Supporters of AB 32, the environment and clean energy started a website, NoOnValero.com, to let Californians know that the effort to kill AB 32 is about Big Oil profits, not saving or creating jobs. They also staged a rally in front of a Sacramento Valero station to tell Valero to mind its own business. Below is news coverage of the event, and you can also visit the No On Valero Youtube channel to hear what the protesters think of Valero's involvement in trying to kill AB 32.

Not to be outdone, the Teabaggers, America's favorite racists and climate change/evolution deniers, decided to stage their own pro-Valero rally the next week. That's right, a rally to celebrate the fact that an out-of-state Big Oil company -- a member of one of America's most hated industries after banks and health insurers -- is attempting to further corrupt our political system and compromise the health of Californians. Because apparently Teabaggers, who claim to value what they call "freedom", think it's better if unelected Texas CEOs of heavy-polluting corporations write California's anti-pollution laws. Also, someone may want to tell the Teabaggers that Valero's involvement in the petition is supposed to be, you know, a secret. And I'll be curious to hear what Valero thinks of getting the support of a group known mostly for racism, unhinged anger, willful ignorance and irrational, apocalyptic conspiracy theories.

Then again, Valero may need all the support it can get. In a shocking turn, one of the leaders pushing for the anti-AB 32 ballot initiative, conservative Dan Costa of People's Advocate, is now opposing the ballot initiative due to Valero and Tesoro's involvement and the seediness of keeping it a secret, possibly in violation of state campaign laws. From the Sacramento Bee:

Ted Costa, of People's Advocate, said he continues to believe in the thrust of the initiative but that the signature-gathering campaign has been "stolen" by big-money interests that have not identified themselves publicly.

"You ruin the whole organization when you go through this kind of muck," said Costa.

And Costa told the LA Times:

"I wanted to do a grassroots operation and involve a lot of people," Costa said. "But they believe they can run this thing out of the country club and to hell with the little people of California. If they have half a million dollars, how come they haven't reported it?" he asked.

Of course, it shouldn't come as a surprise to Costa that Logue would be hopping in bed with Valero and Big Oil, even if it seems unseemly or illegal. After all, Logue knows who owns him. From California Watch:

Last year alone, the oil and energy industries donated $14,200 to Logue's campaign coffers, including $2,000 from Valero. Other Logue donors in 2009 include Chevron, Occidental, and the California Independent Petroleum PAC.

So Big Oil buys Logue through campaign contributions to get him elected, then Logue sponsors a ballot initiative to kill legislation that Big Oil is opposed to, then two Big Oil companies provide the funding to gather signatures for the initiative. Could the dots be any easier to connect? The Circle of Oil continues...

And in another surprise, not only are the authors of the thoroughly debunked Varshney/Tootelian report claiming that implementing AB 32 would lead to massive economic pain refusing to defend their work from the withering criticism it has received, but apparently they don't think AB 32 is so bad. From the State Hornet:

"We conducted an independent and unbiased study, and certainly support the spirit of AB 32," [Dennis Tootelian] said in an e-mail. "Our study estimated the costs, and we have no other comment."

You'd think he'd have something a bit stronger to say after Tootelian's co-author on the report, Sanjay Varshnay, received criticism like this:

"For a guy [Varshney] who purports to be a professor, this is an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to [Sacramento State]," said Chris Thornberg, economist and founding principal of Beacon Economics.

Thornberg said the report committed fatal flaws in basic statistical analysis. The authors used regression analysis, a statistical technique used to test one variable while controlling for many others. The report looked at state output, but did not control for the number of workers and amount of capital in California.

"The results are so screwy and crazy," Thornberg said. "It's so bad that if a freshman student handed this to me, I wouldn't even give him an 'F,' I would call it incomplete and hand it back to them."

With only a month to get almost 434,000 signatures, the anti-AB 32 petition drive is off to a pretty rocky start. But one thing that's for sure is that you should never, ever count the Republicans out. They never give up and will fight to the end using the dirtiest tactics, the biggest lies and the most outrageous scaremongering imaginable. Plus, the anti-AB 32 movement was handed a gift this week in the form of a new report by California's Legislative Analyst's Office claiming that AB 32 will result in short-term job losses, even though the Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out that the report admits that predicting job losses or gains from AB 32 is extremely difficult, provides no independent research to back its claim of overall job losses, and fails to mention the numerous studies that have found that AB 32 would be a net job creator with little or no impact on small businesses.

With California's reputation for setting precedents that the rest of the country often follows, you can bet that powerful players are gearing up for a fight that will only grow in intensity as the days tick down until the petition signatures are due on April 16.