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0,000 Donation trumps 400 Violations

by Tom, Chorneau Wednesday, Oct. 01, 2003 at 1:55 PM

Sierra Club spokesman Carl Zichella said the 0,000 donation from Tim Blixseth's developement company demonstrates Schwarzenegger's insensitivity to the environment. "I can see one violation or even a handful on a single project, but more than 400? You really have to be trying to violate so many environmental laws."

Environmentalists blast Schwarzenegger over developer's donation

Tom, Chorneau, Associated Press, September 30, 2003

SACRAMENTO - Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's acceptance of 0,000 from a Montana-based developer accused of more than 400 environmental law violations shows his environmentalist claims can't be trusted, the state Senate's top Democrat and representatives of two of California's biggest environmental groups said Tuesday.

They also challenged a suggestion Schwarzenegger made Monday to eliminate the California Environmental Protection Agency as overlapping federal regulatory efforts and a "waste" of money.

"What's gone on here has shown Arnold Schwarzenegger to be somewhat of a counterfeit," said Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco. "For someone who tells us to trust him and then has this kind of record shows that we can trust him to do the wrong thing."

Carl Zichella, spokesman for the Sierra Club, said the 0,000 donation from a company run by developer Tim Blixseth showed Schwarzenegger's insensitivity to environmental issues.

"This individual has been cited for well over 400 violations of state and federal environmental laws," Zichella said. "I can see one violation or even a handful on a single project, but more than 400? You really have to be trying to violate so many environmental laws."

Pete Price, a lobbyist for the League of Conservation Voters, said that despite criticism of Gov. Gray Davis in the past over environmental issues, his organization supports the governor over Schwarzenegger.

Blixseth, developer of an exclusive resort near in Montana near Yellowstone National Park, has said he is close to settling his case with both federal and state regulators and pointed out that he has donated property near the development as habitat preserve.

A resident of Rancho Mirage in Southern California, Blixseth said he gave the money to Schwarzenegger after hearing him speak at a recent fund-raiser on the need to reform the state's worker compensation system.

Still, Blixseth is a frequent contributor to elected officials in Montana and said that Montana Gov. Judy Martz is a personal friend. He has also acknowledged having called Martz numerous times during a period in which Montana officials were deciding whether to impose millions of dollars of fines on the company.

Sean Walsh, spokesman for Schwarzenegger, pointed out the Davis administration is pushing forward plans to approve 0 million in land preservation deals that will benefit three major donors to the governor's campaign - Playa Capital, Washington Mutual and the Pacific Lumber Co. "Why aren't these groups holding a press conference about this?"

Walsh said Schwarzenegger campaign officials were still looking into Blixseth's background and the 0,000 Blixseth donation and have no further comment.

Environmentalists have also been critical of comments Schwarzenegger made Monday during a campaign stop in the Central Valley regarding the state's Environmental Protection Agency.

Responding to a voter's question about why there was a Cal/EPA when the federal government already had a similar agency, Schwarzenegger said, "What you just talked about is the waste - overlapping agencies. They cost a fortune. We have to strip that down and get rid of some of those agencies."

The Cal/EPA is a part of the governor's Cabinet and oversees a number of state agencies that deal with environmental issues from air quality and water resources to pesticides and waste management. The U.S. EPA enforces and implements environmental laws enacted by Congress.

Walsh would not comment directly on Schwarzenegger's call to eliminate the Cal/EPA. In an attempt to "clarify" the candidate's statements, however, Walsh said Schwarzenegger does not believe there is a duplication of efforts between the state agency and the federal EPA.

"We believe that Cal/EPA plays a vital role in protecting the health of our citizens," he said. "And we will ensure that it works closely and effectively with the federal government."

Peter Ragone, spokesman for Davis, said Schwarzenegger's comments reflects an attitude about protecting the environment that the actor shares with President Bush.

"Here in California, we know it's not just chemicals and car exhaust threatening our environment, it's the Bush administration, too," Ragone said.

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