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Gloves off in California over greenhouse gas law

SAN FRANCISCO, June 23 (Reuters) - California environmentalists opened fire on Wednesday on a measure approved for the state’s November ballot that would roll back a landmark law regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Linking the measure to the historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups lambasted the measure, noting in a statement that Texas-based oil companies Valero VLO.N and Tesoro TSO.N have put money behind it.

The measure, certified by California’s top elections official for the ballot on Tuesday, would suspend the law until the unemployment rate in the most populous U.S. state, currently more than 12 percent, drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law, AB32, in 2006 and it has been a sore subject with many traditional businesses ever since while green technology companies, many investors, and environmentalists have celebrated it as a milestone in regulating pollution tied to climate change.

The law requires greenhouse gas emissions in California to be rolled back to 1990 levels by 2020, which would require substantial investment in equipment at refineries, power plants and factories, heavy use of alternative energy and much more.

Opponents and supporters have been churning out reports that predict the law will either be bane or boon to California’s economy, arguments reflected in the positions the two major party candidates running to succeed Schwarzenegger have taken on AB32.

Fellow Republican and former eBay Inc CEO Meg Whitman says the law would put California’s businesses at a disadvantage to rivals in other states.

Like other prominent Democrats in California, Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general and former two-term governor, supports AB32.

“This deceptive dirty energy proposition will be an economic and environmental policy disaster for California, just as the BP oil spill is to the states along the Gulf of Mexico,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, also the Democratic nominee lieutenant governor, said in the statement. “It simply must be defeated.”

The measure’s campaign spokeswoman said California cannot afford to let AB32 go into effect with its economy in such dire shape.

“We need to rethink the timetable,” said Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the California Jobs Initiative. Otherwise, she said that “Employers will probably have to choose between obeying AB32’s regulations and laying people off.”

Reporting by Jim Christie, Editing by Sandra Maler