Category Archives: Politics

Economy Film Politics

Inland Empire Film Commission

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By Sheri Davis

During this economic age, the one thing feature film productions hunt after are tax incentives. So in 2009, California started offering production tax incentives through 2014 in hopes to encourage companies to stay in the state. Recently, the California State Senate voted to extend the state’s Film & Television Tax Credit Program for one more year. The original legislation (AB 1069) which passed the State Assembly as a five-year extension (through 2020), was amended in the Senate on August 26th to provide a one-year, $100 million extension (through 2015). If signed by the governor, it will add one year to the current five-year, $500 million program. Although the film commission’s pushed for an incentive “bump” on the original bill passed in 2009 to encourage the industry to travel outside of its comfort zone of Los Angeles, it was never included. The Film Commissions in the State are hoping that when this bill gets to the Senate, that piece will be added to encourage filming all across the state.

Feature filming is still on the decline as the studios continue to search for the best incentives around the world. The incentive package that the State of California implemented in 2009 did fund lots of smaller budgeted feature films; however most of the large tentpole features are still leaving because the program is not available to films over $75 million. In light of that, The Inland Empire Film Commission (IEFC) still capture 12 features, mostly in the desert areas of San Bernardino County. Some of those features included the Green Lantern, Fast Five (aka Fast & Furious 5), Thor and Priest. The feature film Priest reported expenditures of $625,718 in the High Desert when they filmed on Soggy Dry Lake.

There were 18 television shows that found exactly what they needed in the San Bernardino County desert. Shows like Chaos, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, Car Nutz, Wheels Up (for the Speed Channel), Top Gear (U.S. and U.K. versions), It’s Effin Science, Man vs Wild, Storage Wars, and The Event.

Commercial and still photography are still the two main types of production that select the region. 118 projects were shot in the area during 2010. The big attraction for the film industry is the open vistas, great light and diversity of locations.

We are in the final stages of opening existing BLM land for filming in the 1st District of San Bernardino County. We worked with Supervisor Mitzelfelt to accomplish this goal, that was started all the way back in 1999. The IEFC manages this project between the Bureau of Land Management and the County of San Bernardino.

The IEFC did numerous marketing ventures that showcased the desert at several Trade Shows in 2010. Being outside of the 30-mile zone has its challenges, but as residents and industry professionals in the valley work with the IEFC, we have developed our own local “incentive package”….hotels willing to give competitive rates, restaurants and other service providers offering incentives and, of course, the crew that is resident in the valley is always there to help.

The economy slowed down commercial production for 2010 but the High Desert still managed to hold its own with film companies electing to stay in California.

The 16th Annual California on Location Awards once again brought recognition to the High Desert with a number of the finalists who shot their projects in the desert region. The 2010 event attracted over 525 Industry professionals and was hosted by the premier awards hotel – the Beverly Hilton.

The California Film Commission’s “Power Breakfast” always gets attention as the Dumont Dunes was highlighted as one of the six photos used on the one-page flyer dedicated to the Inland Empire. This year’s breakfast was hosted by the Softiel Hotel in Beverly Hills, and 85 Studio Executives and production company owners attended.

The2010 estimated economic impact for District 1 was $8,995,500 and District 3 for 2010 was $3,765,500 for a total of $12,761,000.

Education Politics

Public-Private Efforts Bring Aviation Tech School to VVC

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By Brad Mitzelfelt
1st District Supervisor, San Bernardino

An educated and well-trained workforce is essential to attracting the types of business that will carry the High Desert economy into the future.

Aviation is one of those industries, and Southern California Logistics Airport has already proven itself to be the regional economic engine we imagined after the U.S. Air Force left in the early 1990s.

Providing a ready supply of qualified aircraft technicians makes SCLA even more attractive to aviation companies. One of the most successful public-private education efforts has been the Southern California Logistics Airport School of Aviation Technology.

One of my main economic development goals was to see the school become self-sufficient. The program is now fully integrated with Victor Valley College.

Students who have graduated with their full airframe and powerplant certification from the Federal Aviation Administration are already being snapped up by area companies. Aviation technicians earn a good middle-class wage with experienced technicians able to earn six figures.

New students will be invited to begin the aviation training program in the Spring 2012 Semester. Students who are interested in the program will now be eligible for college credits and financial aid in addition to meeting the stringent licensing requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.

The program’s transition was brokered with support from my First District office by the Victor Valley College Foundation, whose leaders remained involved with the Victor Valley Aviation Education Consortium during the independent start up of the school. The Foundation’s involvement in securing a grant that allowed the college to provide funding for a contracted training program through the school reopened the dialog about a college takeover. Throughout the past year, the foundation has led the partnership between the college and the Aviation Consortium to that end.

“The foundation was uniquely positioned to make this transition happen.” said Dr. Christopher O’Hearn, Superintendent / President. “They are truly a valuable partner for the college and make great things happen for our student’s every day.”

The process was also bolstered significantly by support from my First District office and the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority (SCLAA). My office secured funding from the County of San Bernardino to establish an endowment that will partially support operations of the training program at Victor Valley College and provide scholarships for its students every year. The SCLAA offered to continue providing facilities at no cost for the school, which reduced some of the burden for the college to take on the training program amidst its most challenging budget situation yet.

Establishing the school as a self-sufficient program has been a difficult but worthwhile effort with benefits for the entire regional economy. The pay-off will be apparent for the new technicians who will have high quality, long-term jobs, and for the local aviation industry which has access to highly trained workers.

Education is everyone’s business and the aviation technology school is a great example of how private industry and government can work together for the betterment of the local economy.

Politics

California’s Green Dream

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By Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, 59th District

Politicians and special interest groups have been fighting for years to make their green dream a reality in California, even at the expense of our economy. Extreme environmentalism has emitted its influence into every sector of the marketplace – polluting the business climate with onerous regulations.

California was the land of the Gold Rush; it was where innovators and adventurers once flocked. Now, the state claims to have “gone green,” but entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers are fleeing in search of greener pastures. Something has gone horribly wrong. It is time to clear the air about environmental regulations and their devastating impact on business.

In 2006, the California Legislature passed AB32 “The Global Warming Solutions Act,” which has destroyed manufacturing, mining, and construction in the state. The bill passed when California had a 4.9% unemployment rate and grand hopes that the rest of the country would follow suit. Today the scales have tipped at 12.1% unemployment and nearly 22% underemployment and those hopes have been dashed. California may have been a trendsetter on some issues, but, not surprisingly, most states are unwilling to sacrifice jobs on the altar of a questionable plan to save the planet.

These green-utopia driven policies have put the state at a severe disadvantage. And this all for a reduction of less than 1% of greenhouse gas emissions around the world? As Cal State-Fullerton Professor Robert Michaels has been quoted as saying, “AB32 is the most incredibly effective psychotherapy I’ve ever seen.” No matter how “green” California strives to be, the simple truth remains that air has no borders. California’s actions are akin to leaving the air conditioner on full blast with all of the windows open and we are going broke because of it.

We are feeling the effects of this insanity now more than ever. In fact, California lost 5 times as many businesses in 2011 as it did in 2009. It is no wonder that many parts of the state have reached depression levels of unemployment. My district alone has lost thousands of jobs as businesses flee, the most recent example being Rainbird Sprinklers. Before coming to the Legislature I owned my own small business in manufacturing. I have personal experience working as a supplier to Rainbird, which has joined the long list of companies throwing their hands up at California’s regulation-heavy business environment. With them, will go hundreds of jobs in the middle of what I believe will one day be called the 2nd Great Depression. Given that Rainbird Sprinklers has dedicated resources to educate owners on water conservation and responsibility, the announcement speaks volumes about how extreme California really has become.

The fact is every regulation presents a huge capital cost, acting as a net tax increase. I regularly hear from frustrated business owners and hopeful entrepreneurs that doing business in California is more costly than it is worth. Those who are still here are wondering when the relief is coming. The number one reason cited for companies expanding outside or leaving the state altogether, is an excess of regulation. I constantly hear stories about how the environmental constraints are keeping job-creating companies from growing within California, especially in a timely manner. Ironically, environmental regulations are even hitting the so-called “green jobs.” I have learned of building projects taking up to 10 years to get off the ground, school busses unnecessarily retired, and potentially hazardous roadways left untouched. In large part, these cases are due to the cost of upgrading equipment to meet standards or the time-extensive environmental impact reports required before anyone can act.

Recently, you may have heard, the federal government decided to “invest” your tax dollars into a “green” company – Solyndra – even though the market for its success did not exist. This would serve as a prime example and test of the Democrat’s plan to create a new economy based on “green jobs.” Government cannot create an industry; it can only create programs. Citing Spain as his example, President Obama poured half a billion dollars into the company. The dirty little secret is that Spain has since backed down from its extensive green energy plan, but not before devastating employment in the nation. One Spanish economist implored the United States not to make the same mistake Spain had. Unfortunately, his warning fell on deaf ears. Last month, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, taking your $535 million in taxes with it.

Sacramento has successfully decimated whole sectors of our economy. Manufacturing, construction, and even the green industries cannot survive the regulatory climate in the state. I should clarify that not all manufacturing is dead in California; the legislature continues to produce more and more regulation every year. Governor Brown is considering 600 new bills as you read this and his record is abysmal. Recently, he vetoed AB 135, showing he cannot stand to have even one person with small business experience on the California Air Resources Board. I guess that was just too much to ask of Jerry the “Green Tyrant” Governor. If we continue down this path, history will record that the green dream turned out to be an economic nightmare. We need to make a full U-turn, and I mean quickly, if we want to give businesses a sense that the government is not gunning for them.

We must wrest control of the Golden State from the green extremists and turn California once again into the land of opportunity for job-creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. November 3, 2012 will be a rude awakening for the politicians still dreaming away on your dime. Enough is enough.

Economy Politics

Fast-Tracking Projects Should Be the Rule, Not Exception

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By Assemblyman Steve Knight

With California’s 2.2 million unemployed workers representing all socioeconomic backgrounds, encouraging job creation should not be a partisan issue.

Thankfully, on at least one project, Democrats and Republicans came together last month to pass Senate Bill 292, which will speed up the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review for a new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and create 23,000 jobs. I voted for this fast-track legislation because it is one of the many projects we need to get Californians working again as soon as possible.

However, I could not help but note the irony in the arguments that many Democrats were using to argue for fast-tracking the L.A. stadium. Governor Brown said when signing the bill, “it is imperative for the state to cut the red tape that could delay projects like this (the L.A. Stadium) for years.” I agree – but the state should grant the same privilege to all businesses, not just those that have political connections with Democrats.

The manipulation of CEQA by special interests is a major reason why it is difficult to build new projects and create jobs in California. The law’s intent is good – it requires state and local governments to identify the significant environmental impacts of new projects and to mitigate those impacts if feasible. Unfortunately, some groups have exploited CEQA to prolong lawsuits for years against projects they do not like even though a project’s environmental impact can be responsibly addressed.

That is a problem that hung over the L.A stadium project, where many worried that time-consuming lawsuits would prevent ground-breaking for years and endanger its chances for landing an NFL team. That is where SB 292 comes in – it does not exempt the project from our environmental laws, but it speeds up the time to resolve legal challenges.

In fact, the Legislature granted a similar exemption in 2009 to another NFL stadium proposal in the City of Industry, arguing that it was important for job creation. If CEQA is too burdensome for wealthy stadium developers, then isn’t it even more burdensome for the mom-and-pop businesses that want to expand their operations.

I have met with many business owners who have said that our state’s convoluted laws are making it difficult for them to build new projects. Some are mired in time-consuming lawsuits, others are bogged down trying to comply with the intricacies of CEQA. Don’t these entrepreneurs deserve a break as well? To paraphrase the governor, “isn’t it imperative for the state to cut the red tape for their projects too?”

In fact, my Assembly Republican colleagues and I have proposed 29 bills this year that make economic recovery state government’s number one priority. I introduced Assembly Bill 303 that would provide a tax incentive for companies, businesses and corporations which move their headquarters to California and employ a minimum of 30 people. I also introduced Assembly Bill 429 that would make unelected bureaucrats more accountable for the costly regulations they impose on businesses.

Legislative Democrats killed 28 of our 29 bills and Governor Brown vetoed the only one that made it to his desk, a modest measure that would require that one of the members of the powerful Air Resources Board be a small business owner. It is unfortunate that Sacramento did not go farther this year to promote lower business costs other than to pass SB 292.

We will take jobs wherever we can get them, but should it really take the prospect of a new NFL stadium for the Legislature to move on jobs? Ultimately, every business should have the opportunity to take advantage of the streamlined process that the L.A. stadium will enjoy. It is time for the state to review CEQA and ensure that it works for all Californians, not just for a few.

Assemblyman Steve Knight, (R-Antelope Valley), represents the 36th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities throughout the Antelope and Victor Valleys

Politics

County of San Bernardino Planning for the Future

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By Brad Mitzelfelt
First District Supervisor, San Bernardino County

It is tough to move forward unless you have a clear vision of where you are going.

During the next few months, everyone who has a stake in our county’s future will come together to create a common vision that will guide our leaders in building a better future. Participants will include San Bernardino County residents, leaders from the 24 cities, the business community, school districts, non-profit groups, and others.

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors will organize and lead the effort to create this vision through a series of town hall meetings for residents, round-table discussions involving business leaders, and forums for other stakeholders.

“It’s impossible to achieve anything meaningful or even take a step forward unless we know where we are going,” said County Administrative Officer Greg Devereaux, who has been charged by the Board of Supervisors with gathering input from the county’s various communities and crafting a proposed vision. “The vision we create for our county will be the measuring stick we will use to decide how to focus all future efforts.”

The county will use data from the recently completed Community Indicators Report to guide all of the county’s communities and stakeholders toward creating a vision. The report takes a close look at where our community stands in terms of the economy, jobs, education, health care, public safety, and the amenities available to our residents.

The vision we create will be an important part of county government’s effort to create, maintain, and grow the economic value of the region. The County of San Bernardino Economic Development Agency plays a critical role in implementing that directive. The agency provides many vital resources for businesses looking to grow, residents seeking jobs and housing, and investors and developers seeking opportunity and certainty.

Business attraction is key to our success. San Bernardino County is an attractive location. There are measureable benefits for businesses and residents choosing to locate here in terms of workforce, infrastructure, and location advantages. The region’s diversity and amenities benefit many business sectors, and remain attractive to a wide range of employers. Two of the leading industries in the county are logistics and manufacturing because we have one of the best transportation networks in the world. We are literally at the crossroads of national and international trade.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group, one of the largest beverage companies in the nation, understood the location advantages of San Bernardino County when it built its new 850,000-square-foot facility in Victorville. Operations started in March 2010.

According to Dr Pepper Snapple, the plant was intended primarily to fill a void in its distribution network, allowing the company to distribute products from a regional hub that the company once had to ship cross-country from facilities on the East Coast. Its customers in the region now have much quicker access to Dr Pepper Snapple’s non-carbonated juices, enabling the company to better meet its demands.

This was the only major factory built in California last year.

Dr Pepper Snapple underscores the strength of this region in logistics. It is the location of choice for major industrial users’ regional and headquarters operations. These firms benefit from the county’s proximity to the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports, three large airports, a major highway system, and links to the Union Pacific and BNSF railway corridors. That’s why the county has long been known as Corporate America’s Global Gateway.

Aviation as a component of logistics is one of the industries that will create good jobs in our region. A program at Southern California Logistics Airport, which was started with support from my office, is already having success in training aircraft mechanics, who are in great demand and can earn up to six figures. A highly trained workforce makes the region even more desirable to business owners.

Now is the time to capitalize on this region’s strengths and encourage corporate decision makers from retail to medical to logistics and manufacturing to seek out the benefits from the county’s workforce and marketplace access. Beyond its transportation and location advantages, businesses benefit from the county’s 900,000-strong workforce and access to a lucrative Southern California consumer population.

And our quality of life is second to none, especially in the High Desert, with access to beautiful scenery, clean air, high mountains and a variety of recreational and cultural activities within easy driving distance.

The challenge right now is getting that positive message out to business decision-makers at a time when the region’s location, cost, and workforce advantages can make a real difference in the bottom line costs of doing business.

There is a solid platform for investment here and an inviting business environment in the County of San Bernardino. It’s time for business to seize the advantage.

General Politics

SB 375-Government Intervention or Market Trend?

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By Hasan Ikhrata
Executive Director of SCAG

SB 375 is a complex and sometimes controversial new planning law that, at its core, is about changing the growth and development template that California has been accustomed to since World War II. In trying to understand the ramifications of SB 375, one central question is whether it attempts to force a pattern of urban development that would not emerge on its own. Alternatively, it could be that SB 375 attempts to recognize that change is already occurring and capture the momentum of emerging trends in demographics, housing demand, and the larger economy.

Before we examine the merits of either view, let’s take a look at what SB 375 actually requires, and why it’s been the subject of so much discussion and debate since it was passed in 2008.

SB 375 creates a new set of requirements for regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in California when they produce a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The RTP is a plan required under federal law that lays out a long term strategy for meeting transportation needs. The RTP is also a pre-condition for accessing federal money for transportation projects. Regional MPOs, like SCAG, have been preparing and adopting these plans since the 1970s.

SB 375 introduces a state-required component of the RTP called a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS). SB 375 also gives the state the ability to set targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions for the RTP. The SCS, in turn, is intended to lay out a strategy combining transportation investment with land use in order to cut down on vehicle usage and reduce emissions. In theory, the regional MPO works with its member local cities and counties, and with the transportation agencies at the county level, to agree on strategies, including transit expansion, targeted in-fill development, and neighborhood design to encourage walking. Those strategies are then packaged into the SCS and used to demonstrate meeting the GHG target.

This is, without a doubt, a challenging job that the State has given to the regional MPOs and our partners. In particular, the challenge could be pronounced, depending on what target the State sets for emission reductions. Regardless of the target, though, SB 375 walks right into a traditional sore spot between the state and local government over land use authority, and imposes new objectives for regional planning that may or may not be embraced at all levels of government.

On paper, a regional planning agency like SCAG could easily design a land use and transportation scenario that, when fed into a transportation model, produces dramatic emission reductions, and meets any target. We could do this by identifying opportunity areas for in-fill and transit oriented development projects, and by dreaming up new transportation systems to move people around the region in the future. The challenge, of course, is that the RTP and the SCS need to be more than a paper exercise. The strategies contained in the plan need to be backed by real commitments and real money, and they need, as near as possible, to reflect a consensus view of the region’s future vision for itself. The good news is that the Southern California region, for a variety of reasons, is on the right track.

MARKET DEMAND AND SUPPLY RESPONSE

20 years ago, it would be almost impossible to imagine what has now happened in places around the region like in Pasadena, Brea, Ventura and countless other cities in the region. Even setting aside urban centers like downtown Los Angeles, communities across the southland are seeing a resurgence in demand for attached housing, and walkable mixed use communities with access to transit. This is not just a matter of niche projects pushed by planners and a handful of urbanites. On the contrary, all the evidence shows that projects in urban or suburban downtowns, and closer in to employment centers, have fared better in the current recession than the traditional suburban large lot home on a ½ acre lot. Partially, this is just the result of new lifestyle preference, but actually there is more at work.

CHANGING DEMOGRAPICS

The California suburbs were built for a different type of population than is now predominant in the region. In 1960, nearly half of all households had children in the home. Now that number is less than 1/3, and by 2040 that number will be just over 1/4. The neighborhood and lifestyle demands of households with kids simply will not predominate in the housing market in the future. In their place, we will have an increasing share of retirees and singles, whose demands will have less to do with a backyard and more to do with neighborhood amenities (think coffee shops, small groceries, and pocket parks). To take it a step further, as our region copes with an increasing demand for services for a retiree population, we will need to compete with other regions to attract young adults to work here, again with similar effects related to neighborhood and housing demand.

ENERGY SUPPLY AND PRICE

The other big piece of our future puzzle is natural resources, and most importantly energy. In Southern California we all observed the dramatic impact of high gas prices during the summer of 2008. Many more people than typical rode transit or carpooled, while we waited for gas prices to return to a level that we are accustomed to. In some ways, this shock to people’s transportation habits was a precursor to the housing crisis that followed. The less expensive house, with the longer commute, wasn’t as affordable, once you figure in $4 to $5 per gallon gas. The question we have to ask ourselves as we envision and plan for the future is, do we expect cheap and readily available energy supplies to continue for personal transportation? Most experts tell us that that scenario is unlikely.

So when we think about the forces that will shape the future of our region, we start to see the Sustainable Communities Strategy as a process and a tool that will help us to cope, and hopefully to succeed, in facing a changing landscape. More than that, we think the SCS can only be successful if it recognize and responds to what is happening in demographics and economics – which always play a greater role in affecting growth and development than anything that government does. In planning, our job is to understand what issues and challenges our future holds, to lay out options for how to face those challenges and to try to help create decisions and policies that improve the quality of life for our communities. SB 375 asks us to take on some very big issues and challenges, and as such, it can tend to take us out of our normal way of seeing things. Given the amount of change that this region will experience, though, we think it’s better to plan for it than to not plan for it.

Politics

Regulatory & Economic Equity for the High Desert

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By Eldon Heaston
Executive Director, MDAQMD

Just when you think it can’t get any worse in the regulatory world…it does. In the spring 2010 issue of the Bradco Report, I wrote about the impending problems with the implementation of AB32. To make matters worse for the High Desert, USEPA has now started a sanction clock to force the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District to implement Section 185 – a provision of the Clean Air Act which requires every non-attainment area that has not met the federal ozone standards by its attainment date (2007 in our case) – which imposes penalties of $9,000 per ton of emissions from stationary sources that emit above 80 percent of what they emitted in 2007.

This action could spell a death sentence for local cement manufacturing, an industry which has long been a pivotal contributor to the region’s economy as well as a major employer. What’s ironic is that local industrial sources are being penalized for a problem that is caused by neither them nor anyone else within our district. The fact of the matter is that mobile sources in the South Coast Air Basin are largely responsible for our nonattainment status and those sources are not within the control of the local air district. Even more ironic is the fact that the Federal Agency charged with imposing these draconian fees on High Desert businesses has not done its own job of reducing emissions required under the Clean Air Act for trains, planes, trucks and other mobile sources – the primary causes of the MDAQMD’s nonattainment status.

A closure by any one of our large industrial plants would decimate our already fragile economy in the High Desert, which is also plagued by some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country. It is unfortunate that officials with USEPA and CARB don’t recognize these problems and take steps to correct an unjust and ineffective course of action, regardless of it origin. Meanwhile, we at the MDAQMD are scrambling to come up with alternatives to this unfair and largely useless penalty. While I will continue to resist drinking the proverbial “Kool-Aid” of political correctness, the District will continue to work toward regulatory solutions which balance a healthful environment with sustainable economic growth for the benefit of our residents, businesses and the High Desert’s future.

Air Quality Politics

MDAQMD Urges Governor To Reconsider AB 32

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By Eldon Heaston
Executive Director, MDAQMD

The Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District has always strived to lead by example and takes great pride in its role as a leader among local regulatory agencies. In 2003, the MDAQMD was the first public agency in the High Desert to install its own solar electric generating system to meet almost half of the energy needs of its Victorville headquarters. In 2006, the MDAQMD became the first air district in the state to join the Climate Action Reserve and voluntarily certify its own carbon emission reductions. On February 3, 2010, the MDAQMD became the first air district in the state to write a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and legislators, urging them to reconsider moving forward with regulations under AB32 until a careful review of the implementation impacts on California’s existing regulatory scheme and its struggling economy could be undertaken.

Although our governing board’s position on AB 32 has not exactly made us the darling of the state or other air districts, we have been encouraged by the overwhelming support we have received from local municipalities, businesses, and everyday citizens of the High Desert. These entities understand that the MDAQMD’s position is not based on the science of global warming – it’s based on the High Desert’s economic future and the possibility that our region may not survive the mounting regulatory gridlock which threatens to cripple our struggling economy and hinder our agency’s ability to adequately protect local air quality and the health of our residents.

While the MDAQMD believes the goals of many of the legislative and regulative enactments behind AB32 are laudable and necessary, we are also finding that in an area of unique economic and regulatory challenges – such as the High Desert – there are serious conflicts among existing and potential proposed regulatory programs.

To begin with, there is the unique issue of transported pollution which overwhelmingly impacts air quality readings measured within the MDAQMD’s jurisdiction. CARB studies have demonstrated that were it not for windblown pollution originating outside of the MDAQMD’s boundaries – primarily in the Los Angeles basin – our area would rarely, if ever, exceed state and federal ozone standards. Unfortunately, the Federal Clean Air Act does not consider the source of pollution, just where the exceedances of the standards happen to be measured. As a result, businesses in the MDAQMD are already subject to costly and stringent New Source Review requirements, which require them to obtain non-existent pollution offsets before they are allowed to locate or expand within our jurisdiction. This requirement – which is precipitated by out-of area smog over which the MDAQMD has no control – has historically forced many an industry to look elsewhere to site its business – often out of state – primarily because we have very few existing industries in the High Desert to provide such offsets through emission reductions.

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Having businesses and the jobs circumvent your region is never a good thing, particularly in an area such as the High Desert, where the average unemployment rate currently looms at 16.6%. The MDAQMD believes that any additional mandates which impose even more stringent requirements and higher fees on local industry will put us at a further competitive disadvantage with neighboring states, which are not regulating greenhouse gasses as stringently, if at all. For this reason, we also believe that the state should delay full implementation of AB32 and consider allowing GHG regulation to occur at the federal level, when the time is right, which insures uniformity between states as opposed to economic disparity and unfair competition. Basically, we support waiting until the playing field is leveled so that both the environment and the economy will benefit. In this vein, the MDAQMD also strongly supports NSR reform and a reopening of the Federal Clean Air Act to correct the plethora of existing problems with both permitting and PSD requirements.

The severe jobs/housing imbalance which exists within the MDAQMD represents a major economic and air quality challenge, in that this imbalance – and the inordinate commuter miles it requires – is also the major source of air emissions and GHGs within the MDAQMD. Surveys show that nearly 50% of High Desert residents commute at least 40 miles each way to work, with many more traveling over 100 miles one way daily. It is estimated that over 200,000 cars travel in and out of the MDAQMD’s jurisdiction each and every work day, often in heavy traffic. Thus, the MDAQMD cannot support any law which has the effect of discouraging business from establishing locally, forcing local residents to commute unnecessarily and consequently increasing air emissions in both our district and elsewhere. It is the MDAQMD’s belief that truly “green cities” will not be possible until we can site jobs in those cities.

In our letter to the Governor, the MDAQMD expressed concerns regarding the layers of conflicting land use mandates, CEQA and other regulatory air quality requirements and policy goals which may potentially come into direct conflict with current state laws and regulations, as well as proposed regulatory measures developed to implement AB32. These mandates include a proposed tightening of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and the USEPA’s recent “Endangerment Finding,” which states that “greenhouse gases threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.” Even closer to home, recent proposals to amend California’s Desert Protection Act pose a threat to the area’s economic and air quality future by severely restricting construction of clean and essential energy generation facilities in the place where they make the most sense: the Mojave Desert, which ranks second only to the Sahara Desert in solar radiation. Clearly, this type of gridlock does not seem to make sense for the environment or the economy.

Over the past 30-plus year, California has made great strides in its efforts to reduce air pollution. Despite the impacts of transported smog, the High Desert’s air quality continues to improve, thanks in large part to emission reduction progress made in the South Coast Air Basin. Even as these improvements continue, conflicting and onerous regulatory requirements threaten to cripple economic growth.

In light of the current economic and regulatory situation, the MDAQMD believes that there will be a time and place for AB32 implementation, but we do not believe that now – during the worst economic climate since the Great Depression – is that time. We are troubled that if we do not proceed with caution at this delicate juncture and fail to clearly set forth our priorities and carefully examine potential conflicts between regulatory programs at both the state and federal Levels, we may make some apparent gains in one area while jeopardizing progress in another. What we are suggesting is not without precedent. The governor’s office and the legislature has waived CEQA and other requirements in order to site football stadiums, finding that there is something very dysfunctional about the California regulatory requirements for projects. We would hope that this region’s air quality and its economy are due the same deference.