During his first go-round as governor, nearly four decades ago, California's leadership in crafting energy-efficiency standards, enacting anti-smog laws and regulating offshore drilling earned Brown a reputation as a paragon of the modern environmental movement. "But," reports Michael J. Mishak, "in his return engagement as California's chief executive, he has eased key regulations for oil companies, capped wildfire liability for timber companies and relaxed the state's landmark environmental law."
The "new pragmatism" that defines the governor's current administration has put his (and the state's) environmental leadership at cross purposes with efforts to grow the state's sluggish economy, writes Mishak. "As the state forges ahead with an ambitious program to combat global warming by penalizing major polluters, Brown has said he also wants to unshackle development and create jobs by overhauling California's signature environmental law. And although he signed legislation requiring the state to get a third of its power from renewable energy sources, he is supporting the oil industry's push for more drilling."
What the governor's supporters see as a balanced approach has critics worried about tipping the scales too far towards the private sector. As Mishak explains, "Environmentalists say Brown's actions undercut his own efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade and imperil the state's standing as a leader on climate change."