Activist Likely to Lead Cal/EPA

Times Staff Writer

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger has decided to name Terry Tamminen, the head of a Santa Monica conservation group, as his secretary of environmental protection, according to several sources involved in assembling the new administration.

Tamminen led a team of advisors who helped Schwarzenegger craft a platform during the race that surprised many environmental activists because of its ambition and sympathy with their positions. The likelihood of the appointment, which could be announced later this week, is being hailed by environmental organizations as a sign that Schwarzenegger may make good on those campaign promises.

But some conservative Republicans -- including the governor-elect's transition chief, Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) -- have opposed the choice, according to sources familiar with the transition who spoke on condition that they not be named.

Conservatives are arguing behind the scenes that Schwarzenegger needs to balance Tamminen's appointment by putting someone with stronger ties to business in the job of resources secretary, the other Cabinet-level environmental post in the administration.

As that debate continued, Schwarzenegger made several senior-level appointments Tuesday. His transition team also officially announced that the new governor would be sworn in Nov. 17 and that he planned to fulfill his campaign promise to roll back the increase in the state's car tax that day.

The appointments announced Tuesday included:

* Bonnie Reiss, a longtime friend and associate of Schwarzenegger's who helped run his children's programs, was named his senior advisor. In that job, she will have a wide-ranging role in providing Schwarzenegger with strategic advice and will be a liaison to the entertainment industry and work on children's programs, transition officials said.

Reiss, a Democrat, has been an entertainment lawyer, accountant, producer and writer and founded the Earth Communications Office, a liberal Hollywood group that successfully placed pro-environment messages in television programs during the 1990s, notably an episode of "Designing Women" that promoted cloth diapers.

* Marybel Batjer, the chief of staff to Nevada's governor, was appointed Cabinet secretary.

* Rob Stutzman will be communications director for the administration, mirroring the role he played in the campaign.

Some representatives of Indian tribes that opposed Schwarzenegger during the campaign criticized the choices of Reiss and Batjer. Reiss until recently sat on the board of a company that owns casinos in Las Vegas and has interests in card clubs in California, both of which compete with Indian casinos.

The choice of Reiss could also bring complaints from some of the same conservative figures who are unhappy with Tamminen.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Tamminen, 51, refused to confirm or deny that he would be the next secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

"Important if true," he said coyly.

However, two of the sources that confirmed Schwarzenegger's offer to Tamminen said he had accepted. The post requires confirmation by the California Senate.

Created in 1991 by former Gov. Pete Wilson, Cal/EPA is an umbrella agency that oversees many of the state's stringent environmental regulatory bureaucracies. They include the California Air Resources Board, the state Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and agencies that regulate pesticides and waste disposal.

The resources secretary oversees 27 other agencies, boards and conservancies having to do with land and water. Those include the California Coastal Commission and the departments of Fish and Game, Forestry and Fire Protection, Parks and Recreation, and Water Resources.

Tamminen came to Schwarzenegger's campaign from Environment Now, the organization previously headed by Mary Nichols, resources secretary under Gov. Gray Davis. Tamminen was recruited to the campaign by another high-profile environmentalist, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a cousin of Schwarzenegger's wife, Maria Shriver.

Before his work with Environment Now, Tamminen helped found Santa Monica BayKeeper, another environmental group.

He also helped draft an environmental position paper for Schwarzenegger that surprised many environmentalists, who said it would have been bold even for a liberal Democrat.

The platform placed the candidate in direct conflict with President Bush on a number of issues, including logging in Sierra Nevada national forests, which the White House has sought to increase. The policy paper also called for cutting air pollution statewide by 50% using measures including buying and retiring heavily polluting vehicles and investing in a "hydrogen highway" program that would popularize the alternative fuel.

"I want clean air, clean water and a clean environment," Schwarzenegger said at a Carpinteria campaign appearance. "You can protect jobs and the environment at the same time; all it takes is leadership."

In addition to helping mold the platform, Tamminen assisted the candidate in deflecting criticism of his most conspicuous environmental vulnerability: his Hummer. Tamminen announced during the campaign that with help from an Orange County mechanic he knew, Schwarzenegger would have the gas-guzzling mega-car retrofitted to run on hydrogen. The cleaned-up Hummer has yet to materialize.

Tamminen was unsuccessful in persuading other prominent environmental activists to join the campaign. Every major conservation group opposed the recall, and many openly expressed reservations about Schwarzenegger. Since his victory, Tamminen has held numerous meetings with environmentalists to try to bring them into the fold, and appears to have earned their trust -- even if they remain skeptical about Schwarzenegger.

Tamminen "is a true environmentalist, and has a vision for where California is and ought to be, which is heartening," said Bill Allayaud, the chief Sacramento lobbyist for the Sierra Club. However, he added, "it is clear to us that [Schwarzenegger] has people on the other side who are hostile to environmental regulations. He is going to get pressure from people who will say that environmental regulations are job killers."

James Strock, who served as the first Cal/EPA secretary under Republican Wilson, said of Tamminen: "I think he'll be a terrific secretary. He brings a combination of experience in conservation groups and experience in the private sector. By all accounts, he has also earned the respect of the new governor, which is obviously very important."

Although a number of conservative Republicans have been skeptical of Tamminen, he has support from some of the state's business leaders.

"From the work he has done, I would say one of the best things about him is that he is very inclusive," said Jim Sayer, president of Sierra Business Council, a group of 600 business owners that pushes for sustainable-growth policies in the mountains.

Sayer and Tamminen belong to an advisory team working on environmental issues for Schwarzenegger during the transition.


Times staff writer Peter Nicholas contributed to this report.

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