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LOS ANGELES -- Texas-based refinery giants, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., reportedly pledged as much as $2 million to help gather signatures for a ballot initiative to suspend California's landmark greenhouse-gas-cutting law until the jobless rate improves, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing Sacramento sources.
The companies own refineries in California that would be forced under the law to slash emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, according to the newspaper.
Campaign workers began collecting signatures Tuesday for the ballot initiative, which would delay regulations to implement the nation's most comprehensive climate legislation until California's unemployment level drops to 5.5 percent for at least a year. The current jobless rate in the state stands at more than 12 percent.
The initiative sponsors have until April 24 to gather 433,971 valid signatures to qualify it for the November ballot, the report stated.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a strong supporter of AB 32, the global warming law, had asked businesses not to support the ballot measure, which was launched by a coalition of Republican politicians and conservative activists.
According to a source close to the administration, California companies "are more tolerant of California's environmental leadership, but these Texans don't want to pay to cut their emissions in California if the federal government is not going to pass climate legislation. They can throw a few million dollars into" fighting the law.
A federal climate bill, passed by the U.S. House last June, has stalled in the Senate in the wake of intense lobbying by coal and oil companies, which would be forced to cap their emissions. Scientists say carbon dioxide and other gases are trapping heat in the atmosphere and disrupting the planet's climate, the newspaper reported.
Meanwhile, the recession and high unemployment rate have pushed environmental issues far down the list of public concerns, at the same time that conservative groups have latched onto global warming as a way to attack the Obama administration.
Bill Day, a Valero spokesman, declined to confirm or deny the company's involvement, saying that "any contributions would come out in normal disclosures" under California's campaign laws. He referred a reporter to Goddard Claussen, a Sacramento political consulting firm, which is handling the ballot campaign.
However, Day added in an e-mail that Valero had set up a Web site, www.voicesforenergy.org, "to educate consumers about the federal cap-and-trade legislation. Valero has been very outspoken about the dangers of these proposals and the fact they would badly damage the economy while having no effect on climate change."
A Tesoro spokesman did not respond to inquiries. But the company's Web site invites visitors to lobby Congress to ensure "fair" climate legislation and fight any effort by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
In other Tesoro news, the company's gas stations on O'ahu and Hawai'i Island will participate in this year's fifth annual "Fueling Dreams" fundraiser to support Special Olympics Hawai'i athletes, the Honolulu Advertiser reported.
Tesoro employees, along with officers from the Honolulu Police Department, federal and state law enforcement agencies as well as military representatives, will team up to pump gasoline and wipe windshields for customers while collecting donations.
All monies collected will support the organization's annual Summer Games, which will be held in May. Tesoro Hawai'i will match customer donations at all Tesoro 2Go stores and at pumps up to $25,000. Last year, Fueling Dreams raised $57,000.
Special Olympics Hawaii's mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community. All services are provided at no cost to the athletes or their families, according to the report.
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