California Gubernatorial Candidates on Climate One



For 15 years, California Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown charted a steady bi-partisan course as climate leaders. Their combined legacies include reduced carbon emissions, a clean energy economy and forward-thinking electric transportation. During that time, the effects of climate disruption -- rising seas, shrinking aquifers, wildfires and drought - have become increasingly clear. Greg Dalton sits down with three of the leading gubernatorial candidates to ask them how they plan to take on California’s biggest environmental challenge.

Portions of this program were recorded live at The Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 2018.

Greg Dalton: I’m Greg Dalton, and this is a special Climate One program on the California Governor’s race. For 15 years Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown charted a steady bi-partisan course as climate leaders. They supported international agreements and signed legislation promoting clean energy and electric transportation.

During that time, the effects of climate disruption have become increasingly clear. Rising seas are causing coastal flooding and erosion, wildfires are becoming more common and devastating, and heat records are being shattered - 106 degrees in San Francisco last September. California has also endured a historic drought and scientists say warm and dry years are becoming more frequent.

The next governor will need to upgrade the state’s vast water system to deal with dry and uncertain times. That means navigating a complex puzzle of tunnels, dams, and bonds.

Travis Allen: California has more than enough money in its state budget.  We do not need new taxes. We do not need new bond measures.  What we need to do is spend the money that we already have, but spend it the way that we're supposed to, which is by completing the California State Water Project.

Gavin Newsom: One of the things that I do like about this one of the bonds that’s being proposed is a focus on the conditions that exist in California, particularly as it relates to basic needs that are not being served for million plus citizens in the state of California.

Antonio Villaraigosa: We need to clean up our aquifers, we need to recycle, we need to recapture our stormwater runoff.  We need to keep our deals and do those two dams that we agreed to. And we need to do all of that prefatory to a grand bargain.

That was Republican Travis Allen and Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa. They’re three of the leading candidates vying for the top two spots in the June 5th primary. I sat down with them separately to talk about their plans to maintain the flow of water and energy that sustains our economy and lifestyle.

We also invited Republican John Cox and Democrat John Chiang. Both [they] didn’t respond to multiple invitations.

Travis Allen is a California Assemblyman representing Huntington Beach. His campaign website describes him as “the only true conservative.” I asked him how he would manage water in a state that is seeing a pattern of droughts and floods.


Greg Dalton:  So California is still recovering from a historic drought.  We’ve seen droughts and floods, droughts and floods. How would you manage water in California if you were governor?

Travis Allen:  You know, very simply, we need to complete the California State Water Project.  This means that we’re not going to steal water from the North, we’re not gonna drain the Delta.  Those Delta tunnels will never get built, but we need to build new water storage up-and-down the state of California.  So when it rains, we can finally store our water. Lot of Californians don’t know but urban usage only counts for 10% of the total water use in California.  Agriculture uses 40%, the other 50% flows out in the Pacific Ocean. Jerry Brown and the California Democrats have actually been depriving Californians of water for years.  We’re the most water conscious state in the nation but yet the majority of our water is being wasted every single year. We need to store it when it rains, and finally give Californians enough water.

Greg Dalton:  So does that mean more dams, more above water storage or would you store it underground?  How would you do that?

Travis Allen:  Absolutely.  All of the above.  Above ground, below ground, we’ll do desalination in San Diego and Huntington Beach.  But yeah, we absolutely need more ways to store our water when it rains. And what this means is it means that all of these projects that the California Water Commission have said don't pencil out and shouldn’t be built, all of those need be green lighted.  So Temperance Flats, Sites Reservoir, raising Shasta Dam, Los Vaqueros, and the list goes on.

Greg Dalton:  Where you are from Orange County, has been a pioneer in recycling water.  They recycle a lot of water there. Is that something that should be done more around the state?

Travis Allen:  You know as local districts want to do it, I think it's a great idea.  It’s worked out very well for Orange County. They have a colloquial name for it, which is toilet to tap.  But, you know, the reality is they’re recycling water they put it through tons of filtration and, you know, the water ends up as clean as can be.  And then they put it back in the ground where then it eventually percolate up for much later usage. And it's a very innovative program and it works extremely well.  This will work in certain areas and the water districts that, you know, wanna make these expenditures are free to make them. But these are not the sorts of things that we need to mandate at the state level.  The state’s function really is completing the California State Water Project which really means, you know, the heavy lifts of building that new water storage that have been stalled for so long in the California court system and on the drawing boards.

Greg Dalton:  You’ve been a critic of the way that Proposition 1 bond money has been spent.  That was a bond a few years ago. How do you think that money should be spent and do you support the $13 billion in new bonds on the state ballot this year?

Travis Allen:  Well first for the water bond, it was a $7 billion bond.  2.7 billion of that was supposed to go to new water storage and I voted for it.  I absolutely think that that money should be spent exactly as the voters intended, which is to build new water storage in the state of California.  Unfortunately, the model was passed in 2014 and not one penny was used by Jerry Brown and the California Democrats to build any new water storage anywhere in the state of California.  And this is the crime, I mean think about this. From 2014 to 2017 we have one of the worst droughts on record. Californians were told by Jerry Brown to kill your front lawn, turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth, take a shorter shower.  If you see your neighbor washing his car on a Sunday afternoon, call the water company and get him fined. Literally, this is what he was saying. And while he was doing this he passes this water bond which the voters of California approved. Yet, Jerry Brown and the California Democrats did absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing to increase our water storage in California.  And when the rains finally came in 2017, it burst Oroville Dam, 188,000 Californians had to be evacuated and every single drop of water that every Californian saved between 2014 and 2017 washed out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Not one time over, over 10 times over. This sort of waste is unconscionable. It is, you know, it’s an insult to every Californian that we waste our resources like this.

The answer is that we absolutely should use the water bond for what it was intended to which is to build today new water storage.  And this means green lighting Sites Reservoir, Temperance Flats, raising Shasta Dam, Los Vaqueros and others, and fully funding them so we can truly get them built right now.  And as it relates to new bonds no, we don't need to pass any new bonds right now. Look, when Jerry Brown was first elected governor in 2014, excuse me, for the second time around in 2010, the state’s general fund was $86 billion.  Today, it’s over $138 billion. The question is where did the extra 50 billion plus go, it absolutely did not go to our water infrastructure. And this is the problem, California has more than enough money in its state budget. We do not need new taxes.  We do not need new bond measures. What we need to do is spend the money that we already have, but spend it the way that we're supposed to which is by completing the California State Water Project and finishing infrastructure projects in California that benefit all Californians.

Greg Dalton:  Other infrastructure spending; the state legislature passed a gas tax, you want to repeal that tax.  The roads are crumbling. How can you fix the roads without any new tax revenue?

Travis Allen:  Again it's the exact same story.  So Jerry Brown lied to the California people when he was elected in 2010.  He made a very simple promise of no new taxes without voter approval. But that's exactly what he just did when he passed the largest ever gas tax increase and vehicle registration increase in California's history.  He actually had to bribe four legislators a billion dollars to get the votes to pass this and this was an absolute crime. No Californians were ever consulted. This gas tax is a $52 billion special-interest payday that is saddled directly on the backs of the hardest working Californians and the poorest Californians.  Think about this. This is about the single mother in, you know, in East Bay that has to commute an hour each way back and forth to work. This $2.50 that she's got to spend every time she fills up her tank and the extra car registration every year about $275. That is food that doesn't go onto her table; that is clothes that are not being purchased for her children.  These are the people that it hurts the very most.

And, you know, it goes further than this because less than 35% of this money will ever be able to be used on, you know, transportation, actual building roads in California of that money, not a penny can be used for any new general-purpose freeway lanes in the state and the rest of the money can only be spent on bike lanes, bus lanes and toll lanes.  And of course as you would imagine trains which is why my very first budget I've already promised to entirely defund the California high-speed rail and return the money back to taxpayers. The answer is California has the second-worst roads in the nation and the worst traffic in the country. We do not need new taxes to fix our roads and expand our freeways.  The money is already there in California's budget. We simply need to spend our existing money better.

Greg Dalton:  I interviewed Governor Rick Perry when he was governor of Texas.  He was in California trumpeting how much wind energy he got installed in Texas.  Texas is a leader in wind energy. California, some people would like to see it at hundred percent renewable power.  What’s your view on renewable energy in California?

Travis Allen:  Look, renewable energy is great.  You know, we should be getting energy from every available source.  And, you know, there's a lot of great sources out there. But this is something that we can figure out in the private market.  We don't need to mandate how much renewable energy the California grid is using. What this has caused is not only stress on the grid in terms of, you know, power availability.  It has dramatically raised cost of utilities for every single Californian. And it’s set to raise them yet even further. This is the problem coming out of Sacramento. It's this sort of top-down elitist mentality where the California Democrats believe they know what's best for the rest of the state.  So when they force these mandates of renewable electricity onto our grid what it's really doing is it’s increasing the cost for every single Californian. And it is completely regressive, which means it hurts the poorest Californians the very most. So I absolutely love renewal energy, it’s got a great place.  This should not be subsidized or mandated by the state. It should be able to compete on its own as part of our energy all of our sources of energy. And we should not allow the statewide renewable mandates that have been set by Jerry Brown and others to increase the cost of our utility bills every single month for the hardest working Californians.

Greg Dalton:  And forests are part of our natural resource heritage in California.  The cost of fighting all the fires has gone up dramatically. How would you manage these increasingly year-round fire seasons that we’re having north and south across the state?

Travis Allen:  Absolutely.  Look, this is a man-made problem again entirely laid at the feet of California Democrats.  The north of the state has, or had, an incredible timber industry. It was an extremely wealthy area.  We can keep healthy forests that are sustainable for generations after generations if we simply allow people to use our own natural resources for our benefit.  Let me explain what I mean. When you give private industry the ability to have a timber industry, what we can do is not only can we fin the forest so when we get these devastating wildfires they are lesser in impact, meaning they burn at lower temperatures and they burnout much quicker because we don't have all of this dense undergrowth that can never be cleared away.  We are also protecting the Californians that live near these areas that are at risk of having their homes burn down. We also are able to, you know, stop importing wood and all of the other supplies we’re bringing in from Canada because we have all of our own resources to use.

But most importantly, more important than all of these things is that timber and our forests are a renewable resource.  They are ours, they belong to every single Californian and there is absolutely no reason that we should be allowing the extreme environmentalists in the California Democratic Party tell the people of California that we cannot use our own natural resources.  When I'm the next governor of the state of California, I will ensure that we are using our own water. We are using our own timber, we are able once again to do mining in gold country. We’re going to flood the Central Valley so we finally have an extremely vibrant agricultural sector and unlock the true potential of what the Central Valley can produce.  And yes, we’ll be energy independent, and we will allow the extraction of oil and gas in California cleanly, safely, environmentally friendly but for the benefit of every single Californian.

Greg Dalton:  And how would you work with the Trump administration in Washington DC. A lot depends on how the feds and California get along.  Sometimes they’re aligned, sometime they’re at odds. How much of the Trump administration would you embrace, would you do anything differently than what Trump has outlined?

Travis Allen:  I think Donald Trump is doing a phenomenal job across the country.  I think that you take a look first at his tax cut that we did just last year, $8 trillion of new wealth created across the country.  Lowest unemployment on record for African-Americans. Lowest unemployment on record for Latinos. Lowest overall unemployment since 2000, lowest jobless claims since the year I was born in 1973.  I mean think about this think what this actually means. This means food on the table for the United States, everybody for all of our families including our poorest among us. This is good in the world.  These tax cuts benefited everybody whether they’re a Republican, a Democrat or just cared about football and had no use for politics. It's the same story in California. That's the sort of forward thinking we need in California.

You may have heard I have a five-point plan for our state and I’m the only candidate in the governor race election has a plan for California.  Cut taxes, starting with the repeal of gas tax, fix our roads, expand our freeways, with no new taxpayer dollars. Get tough on crime and repeal soft on crime laws of California Democrats.  Fix our broken education system and complete the California State Water Project.

And as you see the common thread in there what you see is this is empowerment of the people of California to actually use our own natural resources and spend our money as opposed to having it being wasted, you know, year after year by the Democrats who have had uninterrupted power in the legislature for decades now.  And as it relates to, you know, our environment and the Trump administration I think Trump has made incredible strides in allowing the people of the United States to actually use their own natural resources. There's been a lot of hysteria on the part of the extreme environmentalists and I think it's been entirely unfounded.  What we're looking at is we’re the most technologically advanced nation in the world. We have the ability to use our natural resources for our own benefit cleanly, safely, environmentally friendly. But these are our resources. There is no reason that we should be sending our money to other states and other countries when we have all of our resources ourselves and we can do it better than anybody else can.

Greg Dalton:  A Republican who’s mayor of San Diego near you, Kevin Faulconer has a climate plan.  Some of the elders of the Republican Party, James Baker, Hank Paulson, George Shultz have proposed, you know, pricing carbon pollution.  What’s your view on climate change and how to respond to it?

Travis Allen:  You know, it's such a good topic that you bring up.  And I love how you brought it up because first, you know, the question starts out with climate change and is it man-made.  And secondly, then it goes directly into the taxation element and how much should we charge the people of California to use their own natural resources.  So this is the sort of backward thinking that Jerry Brown has been crafting for years now in the California legislature. And let's be very clear, Arnold Schwarzenegger was no better on this.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was the one that gave us AB 32. The first thing to say is that whether or not climate change is man-made or not is something that will be settled by science. And this is far from being settled.  All of the estimates that we have and the models that we have are just that their estimates and their models and they have, there is a lot of room clearly for disagreement.

And when we talk about science, remember science is not saying that theories are proven fact.  Science is about finding out when these facts are actually proven and we're still very much in the process of that.  So then it really asks the next question which is well, you know, if or if, you know, if climate change is man-made or if it is not, is the right answer increasing taxes on Californians?  And the answer is absolutely not. Look, something that is settled science is, you can ask any expert if California was to go to zero emissions next year would it change global temperatures?  And the answer is, it would not even change them by 1/10 of 1%. We could go to zero emissions in our state and it would not change our carbon emissions, our global temperatures one bit around the world.

But what it would do is it would increase costs for every single Californian.  It would force our companies and our business out to other states and other countries.  And that's exactly what's been happening. So using the false narrative that somehow tax increases will benefit our environment, Jerry Brown and the California Democrats have been able to extract ever greater amounts of money out of California businesses and California taxpayers’ pockets.  This is something that must be stopped. It must be reversed. I was one of the biggest opponents against Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade extension and I look forward to the day when we get to put AB 32 back on the ballot for the people of California to reverse. Because very clearly if California was to go to zero emissions tomorrow, it will not change global temperatures even one bit.  But by California keeping schemes in place like the cap-and-trade tax plan of Jerry Brown and the California Democrats, it's going to cost Californians a lot of money. And these costs unfortunately get borne by those that are least able to afford it because they're completely regressive, meaning they hurt the poorest Californians the very most.

Greg Dalton:  Great.  Well, Travis Allen thanks for coming on Climate One.  I really appreciate your time.

Travis Allen:  Absolutely.  And if I could just add one last thing to our interview which is this.  There is a myth out there that certain Californians value the environment more than others and this is a complete myth.  Every single Californian loves the environment. Every single Californian loves clean air, clean water, they want to live in the cleanest state possible.  This is always our goal. What we need to understand is that we can have an incredible environment and we can also have Californians that are able to use their own natural resources, healthy cities, healthy families and a healthy ecosystem onshore and offshore around our entire state.  We don't need to be using climate as a lever to extract more tax dollars out of California. Instead, what we need to be doing is employing sensible practices where we can use our own natural resources and we can make sure that we have the cleanest environment possible for the benefit of every single Californian.


Greg Dalton: If you are just joining us this is a special Climate One program on the California governor’s race.  I’m Greg Dalton. We just heard from Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican from Huntington Beach. Republican John Cox, who was recently endorsed by President Trump,  didn’t respond to several interview requests.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom was active on energy issues in his seven years as San Francisco Mayor. He says on his first day as Governor he would commit California to 100% renewable energy. I asked him if that is affordable, desirable and achievable.

Greg Dalton:  So if you’re elected on day one, you say that you will commit California to 100% renewable energy.  Is that affordable, desirable and achievable?

Gavin Newsom:  Or even necessary because I imagine Governor Brown will establish that benchmark before he leaves.  And we’re already at 50% renewable goal by 2030. But I think it is achievable. You’ve got to be audacious.  We were at 56.7% renewables on March 23rd last year. I mean the fact is on certain days of the year we actually have reached some pretty extraordinary goals that frankly even a couple years ago folks didn’t think were possible.  So I think it is achievable.

Greg Dalton:  Some people might say California produces too much solar energy.  We have to export it to nearby states.

Gavin Newsom:  It’s an interesting challenge.  Of course solar has all these other interesting challenges.  I was just down at the Salton Sea and we’re talking about the geothermal capacity down there.  And of course geothermal has been impacted from a cost perspective because of the lowered costs of solar.  And so it is interesting as solar is really eating into this entire renewable universe in ways that many had predicted, but we’re all now really experiencing.  And it’s an extraordinary testament to stay in the course innovation and policy being an accelerator to not only create jobs but to actually create a framework of audacity that is now replicable across the rest of the country for that matter around the rest of the world.  So California needs to maintain that leadership.

Greg Dalton:  Water is an issue that often isn’t talked about on the campaign trail unless there’s a drought.  We’re now in a period climate scientists say we’re gonna whiplash between droughts and floods, droughts and floods.  How would you manage a state water system that affords more flexibility than the way we used to get predictable rain and snow?

Gavin Newsom:  Yeah, now especially with these atmospheric rivers.  And so the question of capturing particularly storm water runoff.  I think that's the greatest low hanging fruit. We talk about dams in the traditional sense looking sort of the 20th century framework of that.  But capturing water, particularly as it relates to the water going out to the sea I think is extraordinary opportunity. I know in L.A. they’re trying to lead with some new projects down there.  We need to accelerate that. Invest heavily in that. Groundwater replenishment, wastewater recycling, conjunctive use as it relates to our existing infrastructure particularly with our aboveground storage facilities.

But no, we clearly have to modernize that system.  In many respects we’re leaned into that direction the seven and a half billion dollar bond. But more broadly to focus on water recycling wastewater and other innovative strategies that are also part of that bond that haven't frankly gotten as much attention as I think they deserve.  And as much attention frankly as the governor and the legislature deserve in terms of advancing them.

Greg Dalton:  So do you think that there are more storage, more dams.  Some people want to tear down the dams and let the fish have a free rein.

Gavin Newsom:  Yeah, I mean I’m not ideological about it.  I get the arguments, you know, people believe, you know, we can do, we do better groundwater replenishment, we could do better to create storage opportunities in a more modern way.  But again, I think the voters opined the seven and a half billion dollars; it was a compromise, it was a package. We went with good will and trust to the voters. We got the Water Board that’s gonna score these things anew.  And I'm not necessarily gonna try to get in the way of that.

That said, look, I'm for regionalized solutions.  I'm for, you know, replicating the great work that’s been done in Orange County on toilet to tap technologies.  I am not ideologically opposed the desalinization, particularly brackish desal. Clearly, looking at recycling, looking at efficiency has to be part of it.  New innovations, particularly relates to ag we have to constantly push the envelope there.

Greg Dalton:  You mentioned the $7 billion bond, there’s another $13 billion in bonds on the ballots this year.  4 billion in June, 9 billion in November. Do voters have the appetite for $13 billion in more water bonds?

Gavin Newsom:  It's an open-ended question.  It hasn't been organized with the kind of broad support that we saw with that seven and a half billion dollar bond.  So it is an open-ended question. Look, one of the things that I do like about this one of the bonds that’s being proposed is a focus on the conditions that exist in California, particularly as it relates to basic needs that are not being served for million plus citizens in the state of California.

Greg Dalton:  And lead contaminated water in Oakland.

Gavin Newsom:  Contaminated water in Oakland.  It's rather jaw-dropping that, you know, this is the richest state that it doesn't get more attention these conditions.  And when you travel the state and you see them you just, you know, jaw drops and how is this possible. Those weren't substantively addressed in the previous efforts in incarnation.  So if these fall short I think we’re gonna have to repackage something moving in the future, build a bigger constituency around that and address that a little bit more forthrightly. I know the legislature and the governor did it around the fees issue which created some controversy and stress.  That’s a down payment more broadly that we’re gonna have to address this.

Greg Dalton:  Tunnels and the train are two areas where you perhaps differ from the current governor.  Where are you on the tunnels, they move forward recently with the Southern California Water District, what $10 billion on the table that you’re gonna help pay for it.  Are you enthusiastic about the tunnels?

Gavin Newsom:  Look, conveyance has to be addressed in the Delta.  But I still maybe I'm a little nostalgic pre-water fix for the dual goals this notion that we’re gonna have a more aggressive conservation focus, a more aggressive focus on environmental mediation, stewardship and the like.  But the reality is the Delta is vulnerable. And if something happens it happens on our watch. And so no one can walk away from this. And I think the one tunnel approach is more realistic approach. I humbly submit in this context that I'm concerned with the two-tunnel approach even with the $10.8 billion from the of course the renewed interest in Santa Clara.  That we may just end up in litigation and no project, years and years of litigation. And I think if we can find some consensus around more simple conveyance that addresses that legitimate reverse flow issues with the existing pumps that actually could advance our environmental goals in a much more forthright way. I would prefer to achieve that.

Greg Dalton:  The train did go before voters and was supported.  Are you enthusiastic about high-speed rail?

Gavin Newsom:  Well, I’m enthusiastic about what we promote and what we promised.  I was one of the original cosponsors and supporters in that effort, not cosponsors, but cochairs of that effort.

But what I like and long-windedly have been critical some of the financing in the past in the interim that is in the last few years, frankly I don’t think we’ve been straight with folks as we should be on it.  But I like the new leadership I think Brian Kelly has done justice to the facts it was much more transparent in this new proposal the $77.3 billion new estimate. He was very honest about the challenges of getting it down to Southern California, particularly getting over the San Gabriel Mountains and the challenge of identifying resources for that.  But the new phase now valley to valley, I think could be very advantageous for the state. It certainly would significantly help the Central Valley and it would connect from a transit perspective and a housing linkage and a jobs linkage the fastest growing region, Silicon Valley, in the world arguably and one of the fastest-growing parts of our state in a way that I think could do justice to at least an aspect of the original vision.  The open-ended question remains after we complete Phase 1 is how do we finance without private-sector support or federal government support the three and a half billion that second phase in the Southern California that is legitimately an open-ended question.

Greg Dalton:  And not much federal money looking in this administration, California had to fight to get Caltrain electrification, about that.

Gavin Newsom:  Yeah, even that was difficult for us.  And there's no legitimate argument against that from an economics perspective.  Look, it’s interesting some people just want to kill this thing. But if you’re gonna kill it, let's remember what you are asking, you’re not redirecting that $9.95 billion to water projects.  I love it hearing these guys talk like that. The voters prescribed that bond to be used for this purpose you can't redirect that money. You have to go back in front of the voters for that money.

Number two, you’re gonna give three and half billion dollars back to Trump, Donald Trump.  You already have 1,700 people working on this project. You already have a number of big projects that are already complete.  I did two town halls in Fresno around some of the infrastructure that's been improved there and it's already having an impact in that community.  But one of the benefits of more traditional industrialized fixed rail transit is the opportunity to zone and rezone in and around those corridors and create spokes on that wheel that really could create economic opportunities in a real economic stimulus in a part of the state that desperately needs it.

Greg Dalton:  Proposition 70 is on the ballots in June.  That would require a super majority to allocate cap-and-trade funds after 2024.  Governor Brown and the CalChamber are supportive. Tom Steyer and most environmentalists are against it.

Gavin Newsom:  Yeah, he may have opposed look, but I get it.  The governor made a deal and he's kept his part of that bargain and I respect that.  And we always should respect that. That's what he committed in order to get that extension of cap-and-trade, which was a big victory not just for Governor Brown but for the state of California the people of this country that will be beneficiaries because they extended cap-and-trade.

It does make the high-speed rail question more challenging because it's predicated on being able to bond against future proceeds under the cap-and-trade which of course as you know we get 25% of the resources for the high-speed rail from the cap-and-trade program.  But, you know, that was part of the deal. But I'm with Steyer on this but I respect and by no means critique of Governor Brown and the chamber. I respect why they’re on one side.

Greg Dalton:  I guess the underlying issue is whether cap-and-trade in California's climate policies ought to have bipartisan support.  You know there’s a super majority not many Republican -- any Republican statewide, you know, does cap-and-trade and climate policy need Republicans on board to be viable.

Gavin Newsom:  Well we got Republicans which was amazing in terms of the extension.  So look, we did it in a bipartisan way. And, you know, the extent now the bar is gonna be raised even higher.  It's unfortunate. I don't know that that’s, you know, again, forgive me for being a little nostalgic to the Constitution.  But, you know, the representative democracy, you know, those in leadership have the ability to, you know, to advance principles and values and ideals.  And when we start coming up with these arbitrary three quarters 70%, I mean all of the sudden we’re gaming that system and I don’t know if that’s particularly helpful.

Greg Dalton:  The Trump administration is going after really one of the crown jewels of California environmental policy.  The waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows California to have cleaner air, more stringent regulations that's been supported across Republican and Democratic administrations.  How big a concern or how would you defend that?

Gavin Newsom:  I'm not that concerned because I’m confident in our legal strategy.  I'm confident in our resolve and commitment and I'm confident California's capacity to punch way above its weight.  And I'm confident that the automobile manufacturers recognize in their quiet moments that the rest of the world this train going back to previous questions, left the station.  Meaning the world is radically changing the way it produces, consumes energy and it’s particularly looking tailpipe emissions for that change. You’re looking in places like India and China are talking about electrifying their vehicle fleets sort of moving way past leaping ahead of this stale conversation around getting to 50 miles per gallon.

So it's not just our domestic automobile manufacturers are also selling around the rest of the world.  California has actually been helping them prepare for that market and opening those doors. Those 12 other states plus or minus and District of Columbia that have moved in our direction, have taken our lead.  And I think that provides a formidable foil and opposition to Scott Pruitt and his temporary status as an EPA director and Donald Trump's temporary status as President of the United States.

Greg Dalton:  Do you think industry is doing enough to step up?  There’s been some comments some op-eds here and there.  But there's not a lot of strong industry voicing, hey we want California we want one set of national rules.

Gavin Newsom:  No, the industry is always a lagger.  I mean they’ve been a lagger I mean they’ve been a lagger but ironically, the biggest beneficiary of California's leadership.  We forced them to do the right thing and when doing the right thing it’s made them competitive internationally. So, you know, this is the bellyaching with all due respect to hear often every time there’s change at scale.  Especially on the environmental side of the ledger. And we've heard them say they couldn't -- my entire life I've heard they couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that. Every time we move forward they achieve it. And they achieve it in a way where their profits go up and economic opportunities are expanded from a global perspective.  I applaud President Obama's leadership on this a number of years back. And I applaud Governor Brown and Attorney General Becerra's resolve to stand tall and firm and push back against this current effort to roll it back.

Greg Dalton:  Assembly member Phil Ting has a bill proposing to phase out and ban the sale of gasoline cars.  China, India, France and U.K. made similar noises. Do you support that?

Gavin Newsom:  Yeah, I mean I support the spirit of it.  I don't know, you know, California I mean though we are a nation state I understand the spirit as the sixth largest economy.  So in the spirit of the conversation we’ve been having, I appreciate what Phil is trying to achieve. I'm a little more cautious about that candidly as a bill but as a principal I appreciate where he’s going because that's invariably where the industry is going.

That said, proscribing the method concerns me a little bit more.  Zero emissions broadly, I understand that spirit; is it electric, is it hydrogen, new technologies that we haven't even conceived of.  We’re not just talking about mobility changing from autonomy perspective but we also now have autonomy not just of cars but flight. Something big has happened to the plumbing of the world.  We don't know what we don’t know, and so we have to be cautious when we’re setting these mandates.

Greg Dalton:  Fires have ravaged the state they're connected to the hots and the dries you're talking about.  Lot of money being spent fighting these fires. Do we need to change where we live and how we live in that sort in that beautiful interface with nature?

Gavin Newsom:   It’s the right question; I want to say no but that's a lazy response.  Of course saying yes could be a lazy response as well. You know I’ve toured both the major fires, the aftermaths, it’s jaw-dropping the damage that was done this year.  There is no fire season, I think everyone accepts that it's a year-round challenge and the costs are jaw-dropping. But what's self-evident is one thing. And the reason I begin with no is we're not doing a very good job at fire prevention, calling out the forest dealing with dead brush, dead trees which is a huge issue in the state.  Early warning systems, opt out technology not opt in technology. Infrared systems that exist that were not deploying as we should to mitigate fires more aggressively - I’d rather use our National Guard to address some of those issues than frankly be down at the border doing Trump’s work. I just think there's ways we can mitigate the damage.  We can't end the threat but I hesitate to create zones in Santa Rosa as an example where we are not allowed to rebuild because the prospects of forest fires. I rather we learned some lessons and preemptively mitigate the prospects moving in the future as a first response as we more appropriately look at land-use more broadly as our population continues to grow.

Greg Dalton:  People during those fires were happening, people were walking around downtown San Francisco with air mask.  It was a big public health issue. Do you still support universal healthcare? One of your opponents says it's folly to support it without saying how you gonna pay for it.

Gavin Newsom:  Well, he would've been saying the same thing when I was mayor of San Francisco, when we didn’t know how to pay for universal healthcare yet we did it.  We fully implement it. It’s just short of its 10th anniversary. So I love proving people wrong. One thing you're going to get: when someone says they can't do something, they're usually right.  But when someone's willing to be audacious and actually has a mindset and belief, a little bit of experience, believe something’s possible, just might be. And so I prefer our approach, which is a belief system that we could do more better for the 3 million people that don't have health insurance.  The 12 million people that are underinsured to address the major issue. This is a huge issue. The issue the cost of premiums that are skyrocketing in 2019 because of the individual mandate being eliminated and the introduction of all these “junk” healthcare plans or skinny plans which are gonna change the mix of those that are old versus sick and healthy.  And we're projecting major increases in premiums next year. The real question I have to my opponents is how you gonna pay for that? And so I think it's incumbent upon the next governor to reform the system, lean into it. And we proved folks wrong when I was mayor. I can't wait to prove folks wrong as governor.

I’m Greg Dalton, and this is a Climate One program with three of the candidates to be California’s next governor. You just heard my conversation with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.

Under California’s open primary, the two candidates with the most votes in next Tuesday’s election will advance to the runoff in November. Gavin Newsom is leading the polls with Republican John Cox and Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa in a tightening race for second.

Villaraigosa established himself as an advocate for green cities when he was mayor of Los Angeles from 2005 to 2013. I asked him how he would continue or change the environmental and water policies of Governors Schwarzenegger and Brown.

Antonio Villaraigosa:  I don’t know if you realize, but I was the author of the Carl Moyer Act which was the biggest effort to clean up the air since the Clean Air Act until AB 32 and SB 32. And when I was mayor of Los Angeles I said we'd make L.A. the cleanest, greenest big city in the country.  And we went from 3% renewable, we had the dirtiest public utility in the United States, we went from 3% to 20% renewable in five years. We signed agreements to get completely off of coal. Number one American city in reducing carbon emissions, number five in the world. Every single street lamp in L.A. is LED, every traffic light is LED and synchronized.  Built three light rail lines and one bus way and a 23% reduction in water usage. So I'm focused on climate change, and I think the next governor is gonna have to continue the path of leading the nation and the world.

But I also think that we've got to be more focused and strategic with respect to building a cleantech community, a cleantech economy.  I want to leverage these standards for new green jobs, train people for those jobs. And then I think we also have to look at it’s great to set standards but the governor's job is to make sure that the state is implementing those standards. So as you know to get to 100% renewable as an example, you’ll gonna need storage capacity, storage infrastructure. We’re gonna have to address that because we’re not anywhere close to the battery storage specifically to make renewables from peak load powers wind and solar, to base load powers.  So those are some of the things we need to do with respect to but we’re gonna continue a forward path and a path that leads the nation and the world.

Greg Dalton: One of the critiques of the Schwarzenegger and Brown approach has been particularly cap-and-trade has marginalized or not benefited some of the communities that are fence line communities closest to the dirtiest sources of pollution, the environmental justice issue.  What would you do to address that, Central Valley and other communities you really care about?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Look, I focused a lot on carbon emission reduction, I told you we reduced our carbon emissions by 28%, but I also cleaned up the port.  Our effort to clean up the port was the most far-reaching in the world because the port was a generator of emissions that had the effect of in the communities around it raising the respiratory diseases, lung diseases and the like.  And I think as you said, the state is gonna have to focus a lot more on diesel particulates SOx and NOx. We have to focus a lot more on environmental justice. You can't just be for somebody who drives a Tesla and not somebody who drives a Toyota pickup or ride a bus like my mother did.  And as an example, you know, the VW agreement that, you know, they're doing all these charging stations. Well not everybody has an electric vehicle. I think we need to make sure that money like that gets spent addressing environmental justice issues as well.

Greg Dalton: And a lot of  lower income people live near freeways.  Los Angeles spent $1.6 billion to expand the 405 freeway.  One study recently said, it's more crowded now than it was before.  Orange County is about to spend about $2 billion to widen freeways. Are more freeways the solution to our congestion?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Absolutely not.  And I was the guy that added a lane both ways on the 405, the most congested freeway in the United States.  But you're forgetting that I'm also the guy that built three light rail lines and one bus way.

So we were focused on public transit focused on light rail and subways.  But, you know, it was so congested and we wanted to do an HOV lane. Originally we had planned to do two in both directions.  I also did a thing called congestion pricing, both San Francisco and New York tried; they couldn't get the region behind it. I, with a lot of quivers in my back as a result, was able to get the region behind it.  So one day all of these HOV lanes will be, you know, high occupancy lanes, you know, with a fast track if you will.

Greg Dalton: You had an accident in 2010; a bicycle accident.  I think a taxi cut in front of you. That turned you into a bicycle advocate.  Bicycling is growing certainly in San Francisco and other urban cities. Millennials like to bike to work. What would you do for bicyclists in California?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Well, I did more bike lanes than as I understand it, all the mayors put together before me.  We have a plan for 1,800 miles of bike lanes in Los Angeles, the car capital of the United States and the congestion capital.  And I did it because look, we can’t keep on relying on an old paradigm where everybody's in a single passenger automobile. We need more HOV, we need a lot more public transit.  We need a transit oriented development so people live, work and play next to a station and we need bike lanes and that's something I did, you’re right after shattering my elbow in a bike accident.  I had been cycling for 30 years but it was my third visit to the emergency room and I decided I think I need to get off the bike. So, but as a result, it was a catalyst for moving ahead on bike lanes in L.A.

Greg Dalton: The gasoline tax is on the ballot $52 billion, 12 cents a gallon.  Some of your opponents think that's not a good idea. Will that money be well spent in California?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Well I support the gas tax.  We hadn't passed a gas tax in 25 years.  The feds haven’t raised the gas tax either.  I do believe that we need to put it in a lockbox so there's an initiative on the ballot to do that.  I also think that we've got to find efficiencies and value engineer a lot of the infrastructure we do and streamline permitting and fix a broken regulatory framework, CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act that makes it so difficult to build and so expensive.  So I think what you'll see when I'm governor is that we’re gonna do put it in a lockbox and really find ways to spend that money so that you stretch that dollar out. You know, one of the candidates in this race talks about the fact that Texas spends a lot less per you know, gets a lot more per dollar.  And I don't think we could be afraid, I'm a Democrat I'm not a Republican but I don't think we could be afraid of doing what we can to drive down costs for infrastructure. I think we need look at innovative public-private partnerships. I think we need innovative financing in addition to the gas tax.

Greg Dalton:  One measure on the state ballot in June Prop 70 requires a super majority to allocate cap-and-trade funds in the future.  Governor Brown and the California Chamber of Commerce support it. Tom Steyer and most environmentalists are against it. Where are you on Prop 70? It’s about working with Republicans and whether Republicans, you know, the Democrats have a lock in the legislature should some things were have require super majority give Republicans a voice.

Antonio Villaraigosa: I want to give them a voice, I don't support a super majority. Look, I don't like doing a lot by initiative.  I think the initiative process is broken in California. I'd much prefer the legislature and the governor working together. So I don't support it.

Greg Dalton: Where are some areas where you think Republicans and Democrats could work together in California?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Oh I think water is certainly an area.  I mean, that's why it's important to keep our deals.  I wasn't for above ground those two dams initially. I've come to realize that we need them in the central valley. But when I agreed to that, I agreed to that because we needed Republicans to get a water bond on the ballot and we needed to have that balance.  And ever since then as I said you’ve seen opposition to building those dams and I think we definitely can work together there.

I think that we can work together on the issue of education. This issue is the biggest challenge facing the innovation economy and facing a state where we’re growing apart where, you know, too many people are being left behind even though they’re checking all the boxes.  So I think there are places where we can work together though the whole gravamin of campaign is that, you know, we can work, we need to move away from the shouting, from the polarization and try to work together again.

Greg Dalton: And could you do that with the Trump administration, where could you do that with the federal administration?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Well, I’m gonna start with the Republicans in California.  I think the Trump administration has gone so far off the flat earth that they believe in that they’ve fallen off the earth.  But, you know, I've said that different than some, I'm not gonna text and tweet all day about Donald Trump and the Trump administration. We are gonna charter our own path on the environment.  We’re gonna lead the nation and world. But you'll see someone who’s gonna focus a lot more on cleantech and green jobs, a strategy to grow and benefit from leverage what we’re doing in terms of green standards.  I think we’re gonna chart a different path on healthcare, you know, most of us believe healthcare is a right not a privilege and we’re gonna move to protect the two to five million people who could lose their healthcare, focus on prevention and primary care.  I think you'll see a different path on diversity and immigration. So we should focus on the challenges facing us. Again, fifth-largest economy in the world with the highest effective poverty rate. Let’s take on poverty rate. A prison pipeline that’s broken, redirect that prison pipeline to a pipeline of hope and opportunity.  I think that's the best way to challenge the politics of Donald Trump.

Greg Dalton:  We’ve seen years of alternating droughts and floods in the state, the worst drought in a thousand years, epic rains where the nation's tallest dam almost failed. How would you manage water in California in an era where we’re going from droughts to floods and droughts to floods?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  I think we got to recycle to a much greater degree.  Look, L.A. recycles about 3% of its water. I think the Bay Area's 4% of its water.  Orange County recycles more than 40% of its water. Israel recycles 80%. We have to recycle to a much greater degree.  We have to continue to conserve to a greater degree. Use technology to help with conservation. I think we need a lot more in the way of underground storage.  You know we need to clean up our aquifers, store water underground. But in 1999 I think it was I was speaker of the assembly and we needed Republicans to get and farmers to get behind our water bond.  We said -- agreed rather to dams ever since then we've been blocking and tackling and imposing those dams. So I do support sites and temperance the two dams that we agreed to in the late 1990s because you also got to keep your deals.

Why is it that this issue of water is so controversial and, you know, some people coined it the water wars.  There is no trust; the North doesn't trust the South. The farmers don't trust the enviros, the urban doesn't trust rural. And what I like to say to all of the people pointing fingers when people say as an example that cities like San Francisco and L.A. and the cities of the state have 80% of the population; they use 20% of the water.  Ag has 20% of the population they use 80% of the water. I said, well that’s not really fair because I’m not great at math but I know this, I asked the question who's eating all those fruits and vegetables. And if the answer is we are, we’re eating and drinking 100% of the water. So I think we need to do all of those things prefatory obviously we got pre-1914 constitutional rights.  You got riparian rights all of these things are gotta be in the mix.

So we have to have an all of the above strategy to drill down on this issue of the water challenges and water crisis we face.

Greg Dalton: And the tunnels recently the Southern California Water District came forward with $11 billion for the 17 billion-dollar tunnels or tunnel, where are you on that?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Santa Clara also agreed to support it.  I'm not there. I just laid out what we need to do first.  We need to build trust. We need to clean up our aquifers, we need to recycle, we need to conserve to a greater degree.  We need to recapture our stormwater runoff. We need to keep our deals and do those two dams that we agreed to. And we need do all of that prefatory to a grand bargain.

Greg Dalton:  So do all that and tunnels later.  Should voters have a voice if that time comes with the tunnel?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Not tunnels later.  I'm not for it right now and I’m just not.  But, you know, let’s do all of that and then let’s figure out what else we need to do.

Greg Dalton: Is ag doing its -- I guess you already spoke to that, there’s tension between fish and people; it keeps coming up, you know, it sounds like those are coequal goals in California, the environment and people.  How do you manage that fish and people tension?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Remember some of it is California-based rules and some of it are federal rules and court decisions.  But we have to have the balance. We have to address this water crisis and I do think we need to balance for sure.  But I think the people who put the food on our table are important too and, you know, they get short shrift frankly because the power base in this state is not in the central valley and I want to be a voice for them.  And remember of the 300 communities that have a clean water crisis, 150 of them are in the central valley. So clean water is also gotta be an important issue and I think we’re gonna have to have strike a balance.

Greg Dalton: The warmer and hotter temperature is climate contributing to fires.  Fires are a big part now growing part of the state budget, people North and South.  How would you address the fire situation in California?

Antonio Villaraigosa:  Well it’s a new paradigm for us.  And I think we’re gonna from what I understand hearing from the experts that we’re gonna have to do a better job at forest management.  I think we’re gonna have to acknowledge that this is a permanent reality for us for the foreseeable future and we’re gonna have to marshal the resources to address.  And I think we have to look at where we’re building, you know, building next to national forests and, you know, probably doesn’t make a whole of sense and I think we’re gonna have to figure out what we do around, how we ensure.  And saying to people that you won’t be able to get insurance if you’re gonna keep on building in a place where you know there's going to be a fire every few years. But very definitely we’re gonna have to put the resources to address this because this is gonna be a bigger issue going forward.

Greg Dalton: That was Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor.

This is a special Climate One program on the upcoming governor’s race. Water hasn’t been in the campaign headlines, but it’s a major issue for California, and our next governor.

As Chair of the State Water Board, Felicia Marcus has worked closely with Governor Jerry Brown to manage California’s water system. I wanted to get her thoughts on what the next governor will face as the disrupted climate impacts the snow and rain that supplies our freshwater.

Felicia Marcus:  Well, we’re not technically in drought anymore but I think the drought being that Godzilla of all wake-up calls about what could happen any year.  Any year can be the beginning of multiple dry years and so why it was a sobering experience. So we're still below normal at best this year. We got a bit of a reprieve in March, but it's a combination of what we have in the reservoirs and what we have in our snowpack.  And our snowpack is still only maybe a little more than a third of normal and melting fast.

Greg Dalton: What does the next governor of California need to look for in terms of preparing the water system for this climate reality?

Felicia Marcus:  Well I think the next governor has a tremendous opportunity to really advance the ball on being prepared both for wetter wets and drier dries under climate change which will exacerbate even our normal series of swings.  And I think this governor has played an incredible leadership role. The best I've seen in the 30 years that I've been looking at water to move us off the thinking about water as a political chip to reward the expert publics that help get you elected and really look ahead to what all Californians need.

So with our water action plan it's been an all of the above approach rather than pick one.  You know from conservation, recycling, storm water capture, you know, ecological restoration ahead of the curve dealing with the Delta, dealing with storage in particular, groundwater storage.  And I think we've laid a foundation. I think we've moved the baton significantly down the field for the next governor. But there's an opportunity for the next governor if they want to focus on getting something done to really move it down the field on all of those issues in a way that will benefit all Californians as opposed to looking at water as an interest-based political issue.

Greg Dalton:  So if you had a magic wand.  What's one thing that you wish the next governor could do on water?

Felicia Marcus:  I think well it's multiple.  I think I've mentioned the data and I've mentioned the watershed and moving the baton.  I really think the next governor can also pick up the baton on safe drinking water for all Californians.  We have legislation pending now to have a very modest subsidy for poor communities hundreds of thousands of people in largely rural areas, but not exclusively in rural areas but really all over the state.

I think keep your eye on that issue.  It's not as many people as a lot of other issues, but it's the most important issue I think for us as Californians and who we are.  I think it's of a piece of caring about the ecosystem and forcing people to figure out how to come together in all of the amazing ways you can to for example think about floodplain management both for flood control and for fish and trying to protect them.  I mean how do we reward those people who are doing projects on the ground where we have all the things that Californians need. They want a healthy ecosystem and a healthy environment. They want to have healthy agriculture and they want to have healthy communities.  But that requires leadership. And it requires a choice on the part of a governor that they want to roll up their sleeves and engage.

Greg Dalton: Felicia Marcus, Chair of the State Water Board, on what California’s next governor will face when they take office.


I’m Greg Dalton. I spoke with three of the leading candidates for governor. Republican Travis Allen and Democrats Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa.

This Climate One program was underwritten by the Water Foundation, funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation; Pisces Foundation; and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Climate One is a special project of The Commonwealth Club of California. Kelli Pennington directs our audience engagement. Carlos Manuel and Tyler Reed are the producers. The audio engineer is Mark Kirschner. Anny Celsi and Devon Strolovitch edit the show. The Commonwealth Club CEO is Dr. Gloria Duffy.


Climate One is presented in association with KQED Public Radio.