Update 5:15 p.m. The governor’s pick for Lieutenant Governor is state Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who voted against the controversial Tranquillon Ridge oil drilling project off the coast of Santa Barbara. If Maldonado remains consistent with that position as lieutenant governor, sponsors of the project would fall short in an effort to overturn an earlier decision against it at the State Lands Commission, where former Lite Gov. John Garamendi cast the key vote rejecting the proposal.
Of course, given his political history, putting “Maldonado” and “consistent” in the same sentence is pretty much an oxymoron.
“He was a ‘no’ note in the Senate, and I’m glad he did that,” said Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who has led the fight against the T-Ridge project in the Legislature. “But while he demonstrated good judgment one time, we’re going to need to know a lot more about his positions on ocean protection, state lands and other public trust issues. This is not a simple position.”
Nava’s comments reflect just one of many political cross-currents and conflicts that will confront Maldonado and Schwarzenegger as the nomination moves through the Legislature.
BTW, our sources say Democrats John Laird, and his successor Assemblyman Bill Monning both are likely to run for Maldo’s open seat. Here’s a piece on why the Lite Gov appointment matters, posted before Arnold’s announcement.
By David Ferry
Special to Calbuzz
While pundits and journalists have been contemplating how many buckets of warm spit* can fit in the Lieutenant Governor’s office, California environmentalists have anxiously awaited Governor Schwarrzenegger’s appointment with more substantive concerns.
Amid the speculation following the election to Congress of former Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a number of students of state government say the governor’s pick matters not a whit. Ted Anagnoson, a professor emeritus at CSU Los Angeles, told Calbuzz, essentially, “who cares?”
“We still basically have no real need for a Lt. Gov…I think the office is a total waste of money. We would survive just as well if the governor’s job went to the head of either the Assembly or the Senate if the governor were indisposed, or to one of the other statewide officials.”
However, there is at least one key policy area where Arnold’s selection could make a big difference. The governor remains a strong proponent of Plain Exploration and Production Co.’s proposal to drill in state waters off the coast of Santa Barbara County, and many environmental groups fear the appointee could help fulfill the lingering calls from the 2008 Republican National Convention to “Drill Baby, Drill.”
The lite gov is, of course, a de facto member of the State Lands Commission, and Garamendi — a former Department of Interior official and anti-offshore environmentalist — cast the deciding vote to scuttle the PXP deal in January.
However, as Timm Herdt reported, the proposal is far from dead. Paul Thayer, executive director of the commission, said that PXP could “absolutely” resubmit its application whenever it wants for a lease in state waters at Tranquillion Ridge; the process could move quickly because the original paperwork is still good. PXP CEO James Flores said in a conference call two weeks ago that the company is just waiting to see who Schwarzenegger will choose as Garamendi’s replacement.
A new push by PXP would instantly restart a bitter intramural conflict between state environmentalists. A number of Central Coast groups and local officials – who typically oppose offshore drilling – including one formed in response to the 1969 spill that started the movement – have signed on to the deal. But plenty of other conservationists aren’t buying it, even though the plan was brokered by the respected Environmental Defense Center, which has been in the center of previous offshore battles.
As Calbuzzers know, Assemblyman and anti-oil crusader Pedro Nava has been fighting the PXP proposal since the beginning. He says that he won’t be surprised if Schwarzenegger makes T-Ridge a “litmus test” for picking his appointee.
Susan Jordan, a Santa Barbara County environmentalist who’s married to Nava and running for his termed-out seat in 2010, went a step further. She said in an email that any new pro-PXP Lt. Governor “is also likely to be pro-oil, pro once-through cooling, pro-desalination, etc. That is the real danger. A vote beholding to the Governor has far greater implications then just this project.”
EDC and other supporters back the PXP proposal because it calls for the company to end all drilling in the area – including its current operations in federal waters – by 2022. The company also has agreed to donate thousands of acres of Central Coast land for protection. However, when the Lands Commission voted the project down in January, it said these agreements between PXP and the EDC did not appear to be binding.
Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara based Environmental Defense Center, lamented how politicized the process has become, when Calbuzz asked about the deal and the prospect of a new Lieutenant Governor. She said the EDC worked out the agreement solely for its environmental benefits, and maintained that the project would actually safeguard the coast. Although she said she hopes the governor won’t use a T-Ridge Test in his pick, she would like a second chance before the Lands Commission: “We do believe that we can address the concerns raised by the SLC,” she said.
The family drama may not matter much if Schwarzenegger fills the post with someone opposed to the project. Of frequently floated names, Republican state Senators Abel Maldonado voted against the plan while Dave Cogdill voted in favor on this summer’s attempt to push the deal through the legislature as part of the budget. Former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg has founded three alternative energy businesses since retiring. GOP Assemblyman Mike Villines, on the other hand, punched ‘Yea’ in the infamous expunged vote this summer and freshmen San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher was one of two Republicans who abstained.
Of course, the governor’s pick is subject to approval by the legislature, which could theoretically strike down anyone in favor of drilling. But more important criteria for confirmation seem to be the concerns of legislators already lining up to run for the job and the fact the new lite gov would have a leg up on a future race for a big statewide office. Never mind that, according to Tim Hodson, Professor and Director for the Center for California Studies at CSU Sacramento, only three Lite Govs have gone on to become Governor or U.S. Senator.
Professor Hodson suggested that Arnold could render all the speculation moot: “With Gov Schwarzenegger it’s always possible that he go for the theatrical and leave it vacant.”
*The late Texas Senator John Nance Garnet famously referred to the job of being vice president as “not worth a warm bucket of spit,” and the post of California lieutenant governor presumably would be worth even less. Over the years there has been some dispute about the noun Garner used in his formulation; many sources make it “a warm bucket of piss” and the Senator reportedly once called a reporter who employed the spit substitution “a pantywaist.”
Calbuzz Bay Area Correspondent David Ferry works for the Climate Watch desk of KQED-FM’s “California Report.”