By Dan Morain.

The NBA’s season starts next week, but elbows already are flying, and the California Air Resources Board is the unlikely referee.

The players:

  • Steve Ballmer, the billionaire owner of the L.A. Clippers, wants to build a fancy arena in Inglewood.
  • Jim Dolan, the billionaire owner of the New York Knicks, believes Ballmer’s arena could box out business at the Forum, which is owned by Dolan’s Madison Square Garden Co. and is a mile from Ballmer’s proposed arena(Updated, corrected Jim Dolan’s first name.)

Capitol connection: Legislators approved legislation last yearauthorizing the Inglewood arena but only if the air board concludes that it will result in no additional greenhouse gas emissions, a high hurdle.

On Oct. 1, Sen. Steven Bradford and Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who represent Inglewood and pushed for the legislation, wrote to Air Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols that the Golden State Warriors’ new arena in San Francisco was approved in two months—in a “predominantly white, affluent community.”

  • “This leads us to believe that Inglewood and the surrounding community, particularly comprised of black and brown residents, are being treated differently than other cities and localities with different demographics and circumstances.”

Nichols answered two weeks later, saying staff is focused:

  • “As your letter notes, this project affords many potential economic and community benefits. These important benefits cannot come at the expense of increased greenhouse gas emissions at a time when our state is doing everything that we can to cut climate-forcing pollution.”

The Knicks and Clippers tip off Jan. 5. But that’ll just be a basketball game.

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Originally posted at Calmatters.