California Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) on Wednesday accused the oil industry of a campaign of "fear-mongering" against his bill that would cut in half the use of gasoline on California roads by 2030, but said he was open to negotiating changes to the legislation.
De Leon told reporters at the Capitol that his aim was to make sure that SB 350, which has already passed the Senate, achieved the goals of reducing greenhouse gases and improving the economy, but he said he was open to compromise to get it through the Legislature.
"We have an incredible opportunity to tackle climate change and clean up the air we breathe, maintaining California's global lead in building the economy of tomorrow" De Leon said.
The senator said he expects a "vigorous" debate on the bill on the Assembly floor and signaled he would consider changes.
"We are open to discussion and dialogue. I am open to amendments," De Leon said.
In addition to reducing gasoline use, the bill calls for a 50% increase in sales of renewable electricity, and a doubling of the energy efficiency in buildings by 2030.
The measure is opposed by oil industry groups including the Western States Petroleum Assn., which says it will damage California's economy. De Leon labeled as "absurd" claims by an opposition group called the California Driver's Alliance that the measure would result in gas rationing and penalties for some kinds of vehicles.
"There is a major campaign of fear-mongering that is very visceral. That's driven at an emotional level," he said. The Senate leader also said a separate proposal by Republicans to pay for road repairs using cap-and-trade funds was not legal and would not advance.
De Leon also defended the implementation of Proposition 39 after an Associated Press report said that only 1,700 of its promised 11,000 green jobs have been created since it was approved by voters three years ago and an oversight board has never met.
"We are taking our time because I think we want to do things right," De Leon said.
The Citizens Oversight Board will meet in a couple of weeks to evaluate projects that have allowed schools to save $25 million in energy projects, the senator said.