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A leader in pushing for a ballot initiative to suspend California's landmark greenhouse-gas emissions law said Wednesday that he now opposes the effort and is willing to write a ballot argument against it.

Ted Costa, of People's Advocate, said he continues to believe in the thrust of the initiative but that the signature-gathering campaign has been "stolen" by big-money interests that have not identified themselves publicly.

"You ruin the whole organization when you go through this kind of muck," said Costa, who helped craft an early version of the initiative but was elbowed out of the drive in the jockeying to recruit backers.

Two large Texas-based oil companies, Valero and Tesoro, are the key financiers behind the signature-gathering drive, according to sources. The campaign's public relations officials consistently have declined to confirm that.

The initiative would delay regulations to implement the nation's most comprehensive climate legislation until California's unemployment level drops to 5.5 percent for at least a year.

Assemblyman Dan Logue, a Linda Republican who also has been a leader in the initiative drive, characterized Costa's opposition as "sour grapes" stemming from his failure to secure a lucrative contract -- likely exceeding $1 million -- to gather signatures.

"Ted, for whatever reason, feels slighted," Logue said. "But the most important thing is to protect California jobs (by passing the initiative). We've just got to move on, that's all."

Costa said the key issue to him is integrity -- the initiative he filed was shelved in favor of a virtually identical one backed by undisclosed interests that are "hiding" their identities and their contributions, he said.

"At a time when Californians really need honesty and integrity, there will be none," Costa said.

Anita Mangels, a public relations spokeswoman for the signature-gathering campaign, declined to comment Wednesday on Costa's comments except to say that there is no substantive difference between his proposed initiative and the version currently under consideration.

Mangels said that an array of businesses and taxpayers support the initiative and that financial disclosure statements will be filed soon.

The campaign is required to disclose its contributors within 10 days of collecting or spending $50,000, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

California law currently requires the state to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Opponents say businesses would have to pay billions to comply with the restrictions, thus eroding the economy and hampering job creation.

Supporters of the crackdown, approved several years ago as Assembly Bill 32, counter that it will boost the economy by stimulating new technology and attracting green-tech jobs.


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