Senator Christine Kehoe’s Earth Day message

When most San Diegans think of Earth Day, they envision the enormous celebration held each year at Balboa Park. In reality, protection of the Earth is a year-round process that requires all of us to “think globally and act locally.”

There are simple things we can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle, like collecting newspapers and home electronics. There are larger policy battles like reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, limiting road construction in San Onofre State Park, and eliminating storm water run-off and sewage spills into San Diego’s bays, rivers, and oceans.

It’s a privilege to represent a region that respects the environment and to work in Sacramento to fight for clean air and water, and to protect our natural resources.

This year I’m focusing on three conservation efforts: lowering carbon levels in gasoline sold in California, holding public hearings when overhead power lines are proposed that would cross designated wilderness areas, and protecting our urban canyons in San Diego permanently.

My global warming prevention bill, Senate Bill 210, would lower the amount of pollution-causing chemicals found in California gasoline. California is the world’s twelfth largest source of emissions known as “greenhouse gases,” with over 40 percent coming from vehicles. The gases contribute to a warmer climate and greater fluctuation in weather patterns.

Under Senate Bill 210, state agencies would be required to create a program to reduce carbon levels in gasoline by 10 percent by 2020. The plan must be designed by 2008, and requires private utility companies to play a role in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The measure would make permanent a similar executive order recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to a University of California study, the lower emission standards would increase the state’s productivity by about $60 billion and create more than 20,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, plans by San Diego Gas and Electric to build a transmission line across Anza-Borrego Desert State Park violate the park’s mission. The specter of 120-foot tall towers looming over the park with massive wires loping from one tower to the next will undermine any park visitor’s experience.

That’s why I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 404, that would require hearings before the transmission line could be built across designated wilderness areas. In February, several local hearings were held by state agencies, and the public turned out to object strongly to transmission lines bisecting the state park. The Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to make a decision on the final path of the transmission line by the end of the year.

My hope is to preserve Anza-Borrego so that it resembles a wilderness retreat rather than an industrial area. More power lines stretching across the park would be an irreversible mistake, and one that would mar the region’s reputation of environmental stewardship.

Finally, I’m working with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and the City Council on protecting the hundreds of beautiful natural canyons that thread through neighborhoods in the City of San Diego. These urban valleys are not only a place of exploration for kids and adults, but are home to hundreds of local plant species.

My legislation, Senate Bill 373, would allow the City of San Diego to create tougher protections for these open spaces and lessen the chances of homes being built in them. The San Diego City Council unanimously voted February 6 to support the bill, and I’m optimistic that the measure will see swift passage in Sacramento.

So as we gather again this year in Balboa Park to celebrate Earth Day, let us affirm our support of legislation that protects and embraces natural resources not only here in San Diego, but throughout the world. It’s a simple yet critical step.

Ms. Kehoe was elected to the State Senate in 2004 to represent the 39th Senate District, which includes 847,000 residents from Del Mar and Lemon Grove, and parts of San Diego, Casa de Oro-Mo, La Presa, and Spring Valley. Christine chairs the State Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, and is a member of the Senate Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review; Natural Resources & Water; Transportation & Housing; Local Government, the Governor’s Broadband Task Force, the California Cultural and Historical Endowment; and the Sea Grant Advisory Panel. For more information, please visit Visit Senator Kehoe’s booth at EarthFair 2007.