An assessment of California’s progress in strengthening environmental regulations over several decades.
In this debut policy book, Peevey and Wittenberg draw on their time overseeing state agencies (Peevey is the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission; Wittenberg is the current chair of the California State Parks and Recreation Commission) to offer an inside perspective on the development of environmental regulations under both Democratic and Republican leadership. The book explores California’s unique experience with smog and resulting efforts to clean the air, the success of cap-and-trade policies, solar energy subsidies, and “subnational” climate agreements as well as the broader impact the state’s regulations have because of the size of its economy. Peevey and Wittenberg explain the details of energy deregulation and mismanagement that led to power shortages in the early 2000s and ultimately to the recall of Gov. Gray Davis, although they focus on the policy decisions rather than the political maneuvering. Appendices provide the full text of a report on the electric industry co-authored by Peevey in 2001, a conceptual design for the energy grid, and a 2003 action plan. The book is a useful tool for those interested in the inner workings of government, as Peevey and Wittenberg are conscientious about drawing attention to the lesser-known officials who played crucial roles in making and implementing policy decisions. Capsule biographies provide background information about many of the commission chairs, public advocates, and industry leaders who carried out the necessary work of cutting emissions, improving efficiency, and swaying public opinion. The work clearly and concisely distills a complex political topic and highlights the core of California’s success: “The answer has been to convince people that good environmental policies are in their own self-interest.” The occasional arch aside (“Given its constituency, it has also set standards for pool heaters and wine chillers”) brings a human touch to an occasionally dry topic, balancing the authors’ deep understanding of the subject with an engaging tone that makes for a highly readable account of negotiating and incremental change.
An engaging, well-organized overview of California’s efforts to preserve its environment.