California’s biggest climate hawk comes under fire

There may be no state legislative race this year more freighted with significance for clean energy than the contest in California’s 27th state Senate district.

That’s where Democrat Fran Pavley, a long-time champion of clean energy, is facing off against Todd Zink, a Republican first-timer backed by a torrent of dirty-energy, and just dirty, money. The same corporate interests that haven’t been able to block or repeal Pavley’s legislative victories now want to punish her for passing them — and send a message to other state legislators who might be getting green ideas.

At stake in the race is not only Pavley’s final term in office (she has said this is the last time she plans to run), but a rare chance for Democrats to take two-thirds of the state Senate, which would at long last provide them the ability to bypass the opposition of state Republicans and manage the state’s budget like adults.

Pavley’s history

There’s probably no one in the U.S. who’s done more for clean energy, for less credit, than Fran Pavley.

As a freshman in the California Assembly back in 2002 (after 25 years as a middle-school teacher), Pavley introduced AB 1493, which required sharp cuts in carbon emissions from passenger vehicles in the state. It was among the first state bills ever targeted directly at greenhouse gases. She navigated the bill through the Assembly with a razor-thin one-vote margin. It went on to a long journey past the Senate, the governor’s desk, the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. EPA, and the U.S. EPA again, but the standards were finally implemented in 2009.

In the intervening years, some 17 other states followed California’s lead and adopted the same standards. It effectively created two sets of fuel-economy standards in the U.S., one for Pavley states, one for other states. It drove auto companies mad. That’s what got them to the table to negotiate the national fuel-economy standards Obama finalized this year.



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