A backlash against efforts in California and Congress to rein in greenhouse gas emissions is brewing in hard economic times.

A coalition of businesses — including two Bay Area oil refiners — and an anti-tax group has begun a signature drive for a November ballot initiative that would suspend California's pioneering law to combat global warming until the jobless rate drops back to 2006 levels.

Supporters of California's law, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say the initiative would cripple the state's emerging clean energy industry.

Backers of the initiative say it's the wrong time to carry out a law that will raise energy and fuel costs, crimping efforts to recover from the recession.

"This is going to have a hit on the California economy. Let's not do this at a time when the economy can least afford it," said Bill Day, director of media relations for the Valero Energy Co., operator of oil refineries in Benicia in Solano County and Wilmington in Los Angeles County. "To me, that's common sense."

Similar arguments about the economy have reverberated in Congress, where a climate action bill passed by the House in June has stalled in the Senate. Democrats in the Senate from coal states are calling for delays.

In California, the role of Texas oil companies in the initiative is another element in the debate over the plan to suspend the state's 2006 greenhouse gas law until the state's unemployment rate reaches 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. The rate now exceeds 12 percent.


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The state law, Assembly Bill 32, requires California greenhouse gas levels to be rolled back to 1990 levels by 2020.

Day confirmed this week that Valero, the San Antonio-based oil company, is contributing $500,000 to the campaign for the proposed ballot measure called the California Jobs Initiative.

Another Texas-based oil company — Tesoro, which operates a refinery north of Concord — has been identified in several media reports as a key backer of the initiative. Tesoro officials at the Contra Costa refinery declined to comment, and officials at corporate headquarters did not return messages.