"California's proposed budget contains a major provision that would weaken air pollution regulations while saving the construction industry millions of dollars.
The measure, largely overlooked in a public debate focused on taxes, would delay requirements for builders to retrofit (diesel-powered construction) equipment, slashing by 17% the emissions savings that health advocates had hoped to achieve by 2014."
"There are people who will die because of this delay. The rollback of the diesel standards would eliminate the sort of "green jobs" that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has championed", said Mary D. Nichols, chairman of the state Air Resources Board.
"Without retrofitting existing construction vehicles, Los Angeles, the San Joaquin Valley and other highly polluted regions will be unlikely to meet federal air quality deadlines. Diesel equipment can last 30 years before it is retired.
But a pullback would be "welcome news for the thousands of construction workers that have lost their jobs across the state," said Brian Turmail, a spokesman for Associated General Contractors."
"Environmental issues have taken a back seat to taxes," said Bill Magavern, the Sierra Club's California director.
"Reform of the budget process, especially the elimination of the two-thirds requirement for passing budgets and taxes, is desperately needed to prevent this kind of fiscal blackmail", he added.
Thanks to Susan Frank