The executive director of California's air-quality board, which is responsible for implementing the state's landmark environmental emissions law, has resigned amid allegations that the office of the Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been deliberately getting in the way of its work.
The unexpected ruckus is deeply embarrassing for a governor who has visited capitals worldwide, including London last week, touting his state as an example to everyone because of its supposed commitment to cutting noxious emissions by 25 per cent by 2020.
Catherine Witherspoon announced she was stepping down from the board just days after the Governor fired its chairman, Robert Sawyer, on the grounds he was dragging his feet in imposing the cuts on industry. He, however, has claimed the contrary - that he was moving too fast and that aides to the Governor were trying to hold up measures that would hurt business.
The Governor's administration has "lost its way on air quality," Ms Witherspoon said after her departure. She said the charge that she and Mr Sawyer were not doing more to implement the new law, the Global Warming Solutions Act, was nothing if not "Orwellian - a triumph of appearances over reality".
Indeed, Mr Sawyer released transcripts this week of voice-mails he had received from aides to the Governor requesting that the board, at a recent meeting, limit itself to adopting three new measures on cutting emissions, when it had four on its agenda.
"Every signal the board got from the Governor's office staff was, 'Slow down, don't hurt industry, don't get ahead of us on greenhouse gases'," Ms Witherspoon said. "They were ordering us to find ways to reduce costs and satisfy lobbyists. …