Sep 8, 2010 11:00 AM  PST

Debate Sought Over Merits Of Calif. Climate Law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) ― Supporters of California's global warming law said Tuesday that they want a debate with one of the Texas oil companies that is bankrolling the effort to undermine the legislation on the November ballot.

San Francisco investment banker Thomas Steyer said in a letter to Valero Energy Corp. Chairman and CEO William Klesse that the two should argue the merits of suspending AB32 because they are the two top donors supporting and opposing the law.

The 2006 law seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide to 1990 levels over the next decade.

Valero, based in San Antonio, has spent $4 million so far in support of Proposition 23, which would suspend the law until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters.

California Employment Development Department statistics show the jobless rate has fallen that low three times in the last three decades.

Steyer, a manager of Farallon Capital Management L.L.C. and a longtime Democratic donor, has contributed $2.5 million so far in an attempt to defeat the initiative.

"I believe that Proposition 23 will move California backward and cost us clean energy jobs — one of the few growing sources of employment in California," Steyer said in the letter.

Steyer said Klesse can choose the date and time to debate whether the ballot measure would help or hurt California's economy.

"Any sort of debates would be handled by the campaign, not by its supporters, I would imagine," said Valero spokesman Bill Day, who had not seen the letter.

Anita Mangels, a spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 campaign, said the debate challenge is a diversionary tactic and an attempt by opponents to set Klesse up as a villain in the clean-energy debate.

Mangels said there is no question AB32 will cost California jobs overall, at least in the short run.

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Source: California AP News

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