Catherine Witherspoon, the executive director of California’s air quality board, the body responsible for implementing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s much lauded green policy resigned yesterday throwing California’s environmental initiatives into turmoil.
The resignation came only days after the Californian governor fired the chairman of the board, Robert Sawyer. Schwarzenegger claims he fired Sawyer because the chairman was dragging his feet on implementing policies needed to achieve California’s goal of cutting carbon emissions 25% by 2020.
However, both Sawyer and Witherspoon claim that exactly the reverse is true and that Sawyer was in reality fired for implementing initiatives that Schwarzenegger feared would make him unpopular with big business.
Indeed, Sawyer was fired just days after refusing to back down over implementing a measure that would force the automobile industry to use more environmentally friendly paint. The former chairman has released transcripts of conversations proving that it was the “Governator”, not him who was dragging his feet over the climate change agenda. Witherspoon has described Schwarzenegger’s explanation for the firing as “Orwellian – a triumph of appearance over reality”.
Schwarzenegger is widely lauded as a climate change prophet. His rhetoric is contrasted with that of President Bush’s, as a model for sensible environmental politics. However, are the Republican governor’s policies as substantial as they seem? He is so worried about upsetting big business that almost nothing meaningful is getting done.