California may vote to freeze landmark climate law

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organizers of a California ballot measure that would suspend the state’s landmark climate change law, possibly for years, said on Monday they had enough signatures to qualify it for the November ballot.

The initiative would put the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act, signed into law in 2006 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, on hold until the state’s unemployment rate falls below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters.

Currently the state’s unemployment rate is 12.6 percent and hasn’t dropped below 5.5 percent since 2007.

The Global Warming Solutions Act, also known as AB 32, is one of the most ambitious climate change laws in the United States in the absence of federal legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It also figures to be a key part of Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor.

Organizers of the California Jobs Initiative say they have submitted more than 800,000 signatures to the state’s Registrar of Voters -- or nearly twice the 435,000 needed to get it on the ballot.

The Registrar of Voters has until June 24 to count and certify the signatures.

“Once people understood what the initiative was about, they were lining up to sign the petition,” said Anita Mangels, communications director for the initiative. “It’s a very rare opportunity for voters to actually have a say in how billions their dollars are being spent and on what.”

But Schwarzenegger criticized it. “The effort to suspend AB 32 is the work of greedy oil companies who want to keep polluting our state and making profits,” the governor said in a statement.

“AB 32 will add jobs, create savings in energy costs and increase personal incomes,” he said. “In fact, the highest job creation California is seeing right now is in our green economy.”

But Mangels said it was unfair to portray the measure as funded or supported largely by oil companies.

“Our coalition includes business, taxpayer and other organizations that represent literally hundreds of California employers, millions of California jobs and billions of revenues,” she said.

Editing by Mary Milliken and Philip Barbara