Governor Moonbeam: California to launch its ‘own damn satellite’

SAN FRANCISCO — He’s mostly shed the “Governor Moonbeam” nickname, but Gov. Jerry Brown pointed California toward the stars as he closed out a global climate change summit here Friday.

“We’re going to launch our own satellite — our own damn satellite to figure out where the pollution is and how we’re going to end it,” Brown told an international audience on the final day of the San Francisco gathering.

California will work with San Francisco-based Planet Labs to launch a satellite capable of tracking climate-altering emissions, Brown said. The effort will lean on the expertise of the state’s Air Resources Board, which has taken the forefront in pursuing climate-related innovations.

The governor’s choice of words in making the announcement deliberately echoed his late 2016 challenge to Donald Trump, amid rumors that the incoming administration would undercut NASA’s climate research role.

“If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch own damn satellite,” Brown said at the time, after musing on his celestial history: “I remember back in 1978 I proposed a Landsat satellite for California. They called me ‘Governor Moonbeam’ because of that,” he said.

In the nearly two years since making that prediction, Brown and his deputies have clashed with the Trump administration in court, in an increasingly acrimonious rhetorical back-and-forth, and by championing environmental and immigration laws that diverge sharply from Washington’s approach.

“In California, with science under attack — in fact we’re under attack from a lot of people, including Donald Trump, but the climate threat still keeps growing. So, we want to know what the hell is going on all over the world, all the time.”

In addition to showcasing California’s ambitious efforts to blunt climate change, the Global Climate Action Summit shone an international spotlight on the state’s continued defiance of the Trump administration. That dual theme of California’s leadership and Washington’s failure recurred throughout the week.

The day after signing a bill compelling California to eventually derive 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources, Brown lashed out at the Trump administration’s proposed weakening of methane regulations as an “insane” act that “borders on criminality.” Asked on Thursday about Trump’s climate legacy, Brown offered some choice words.

“On the path he is now? I don’t know: liar, criminal, fool. Pick your choice,” he told reporters. Later in the day, he signed bills seeking to augment the number of clean cars on the road.

Officials across California’s government also used the proceedings to trumpet their work — and to contrast it with Trump administration policy.

“We will not take responsibility for all the unwanted hot air blowing out of Washington, D.C., when it comes to this particular issue,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has sued the administration more than 40 times, told an audience earlier in the day.

“In California, it’s not just about fighting,” Becerra added. “It’s about winning, and that has to be our motto.”

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