Bring her in
When the lead state agency implementing California’s widely hailed plan to combat global warming finds itself undercut and in turmoil at the very get-go of this important work, and the causes of this chaos remain contested and unclear, it is time for answers and for the truth. Unfortunately, it appears that no answers, much less truthful ones, about the recent leadership upheaval at the California Air Resources Board are forthcoming from those in the governor’s office responsible for this sad state of affairs.
Two weeks ago, Das Terminator terminated Robert Sawyer, chairman of the ARB, claiming that the agency was impeding enforcement of pollution control in the San Joaquin Valley. The long-term respected executive director of the ARB, Catherine Witherspoon, quickly resigned in protest. Last Friday, both Sawyer and Witherspoon testified at a legislative hearing that the executive action was due to their resisting political interference by Arnold’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, and her deputy Dan Dunmoyer. Kennedy, they said, was trying to eviscerate the ARB’s regulations regarding corporate global-warming-emissions reductions.
Though requested to appear at the hearing, neither Kennedy nor Dunmoyer made themselves available, and Schwarzenegger made it clear that he would not allow them to testify. Apparently in major damage-control mode, he then appointed Mary Nichols, a former ARB chairwoman with solid environmentalist credentials, as the new head of the ARB.
However assuring the Nichols appointment might be, the reality is that we still don’t know the reality of what happened at the ARB. We need to know and we need to know quickly. If California is to fulfill its pledge to lead the world and provide a model in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, then openly and fully airing policy missteps and political mischief is as important as the governor’s global gasbagging about the state program.
The testimony of Kennedy and her deputy is crucial, not simply for what it tells us about the recent past but also for what it augurs for the future. The legislative leadership has said that they are considering issuing subpoenas to force that testimony. No need for further consideration. The stakes are too high. Kennedy and her deputy should be compelled to testify as soon as possible. If we’re going to clean the air, we first need to clear the air at the ARB.
Just in case anyone hesitates at the thought of issuing a subpoena to the governor’s chief of staff, we found a photograph from an era when Kennedy exhibited a depth of commitment to causes and principles. Back then, as a matter of tactics, she invited law enforcement to overcome her resistance to complying with an order. If this is another such occasion, so be it. Bring her in.