A guide to 2008 environmental ballot measures
In addition to electing George W. Bush’s successor, voters in 11 states will decide the fate of a diverse range of environment-related ballot measures on Nov. 4. Here’s a quick rundown of these measures and links to where you can find more information about them:
Proposition 2, or the Standards for Confining Farm Animals, would prohibit the confinement of livestock in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, stand up, lie down, or extend their wings and limbs. Specifically, the measure would ban cages for egg-laying poultry, gestation crates for sows, and veal crates for calves, and it would impose a misdemeanor penalty and fine up to $1,000 or six-month sentence in county jail. If passed, the measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
Californians for Humane Farms, a group sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States, runs the YES! on Prop 2 campaign, which has been endorsed by the California Veterinary Medical Association, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Oakland Tribune, and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.
Opponents to Prop. 2 formed Californians for SAFE Food. From the SAFE Food website: “Proposition 2 is a risky, dangerous and costly measure banning almost all modern egg production in California. Proposition 2 jeopardizes food safety and public health, wipes out Californians’ access to locally grown, fresh eggs, and harms consumers by driving up prices at grocery stores and restaurants and creates a dependency on eggs shipped from other states and Mexico.”
Businesses and organizations that have joined the Californians for SAFE Food coalition include the Agricultural Council of California, United Egg Producers, the California Chamber of Congress, Cal-Maine Foods, and the California State Conference of the NAACP. Citing the potential economic burden, the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle also sided with the SAFE Food Campaign, recommending a “no” vote on Prop. 2.
For more in-depth coverage, see “Cluck and Cover” by Grist contributing writer Carol Ness.
Proposition 7, sometimes referred to as “Big Solar,” would require all utilities, including ones owned by the government, to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2010, 40 percent by 2020, and 50 percent by 2025. The measure would impose new penalties for noncompliance, fast-track approval processes for new renewable energy plants, and require that utilities sign longer-term contracts — 20-year minimum — to procure renewable energy.
The Yes on 7 campaign has the backing of three Nobel laureates — Walter Kohn, Alan Heeger, and Herbert Kroemer — as well as renewable energy activist S. David Freeman and Hollywood actor Danny Glover. Freeman said in a news release on behalf of Prop.7: “California’s current renewable energy standards are laudable, but insufficient to help solve the global warming, climate change and energy crises we face. We have one last clear chance to make a determined transition to renewable energy. But we have no time to lose. A continued massive use of fossil fuels is an almost certain path to havoc and destruction of the high-energy civilization we enjoy. Prop. 7 is both visionary and practical. Prop. 7 will help our state and our nation move more rapidly to renewable energy.”
Prop. 7 is also backed by a long list of elected officials and public figures, such as Jim Gonzalez, former San Francisco County supervisor, and John Burton, past president pro tem of the California State Senate and former Chair of the California Democratic Party.
The formal opposition group to Prop. 7 is organized under the banner of Californians Against Another Costly Energy Scheme. Members include a wide array of businesses, taxpayer groups, energy and environmental groups, along with both the California Democratic and Republican parties. According to CAACES’s website: “Prop. 7 was placed on the ballot by an Arizona billionaire with no expertise in renewable power issues. The measure purports to increase the percent of renewable power utilities must purchase. However, it is so poorly drafted that renewable energy and environmental experts warn Prop. 7 will not achieve its goals and, instead, will actually “slam the brakes” on renewable energy development in California, result in significant increases in our electric bills and could result in another energy crisis.”
The state’s leading environmental groups — the California League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club California, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies — also oppose Prop. 7, along with the Union of Concerned Scientists. These groups have formed a separate, independent opposition group. Jim Metropulos, a senior advocate of the Sierra Club California wrote in an explanation of his group’s opposition: “The lack of a sound, steady source of funding represents one major flaw that’s sure to get in the way of a 50% renewables goal. Instead of setting up such a funding stream, Prop. 7 would force renewable power generators to depend upon an uncertain system of penalty monies. It also locks in energy rate raises to just 3% annually, even though there are no limits for nonrenewable power sources. Existing loopholes in enforcement and archaic policies that tie the price of renewable energy to the price of natural gas-generated energy would be locked in place. In fact, Prop. 7 even lowers some penalties.”
Considered the transportation counterpart to the energy-focused Prop. 7, Proposition 10, or “Big Wind,” would authorize $5 billion in bonds paid from the state’s general fund to be dispersed as cash payments to purchasers of certain high fuel economy and alternative fuel vehicles or to be invested in renewable energy R&D, production, and education. The initiative would also provide grants to cities for renewable energy projects.
Californians for Clean and Renewable Energy sponsors the Yes on 10 campaign, claiming it will provide much needed funds for clean energy projects without raising taxes. From the Yes on 10 website: “This initiative will provide funds for a wide variety of clean energy projects, including consumer incentives for clean alternative vehicle fuels and the construction of renewable energy generation facilities, such as solar and wind power plants. It will also provide funds for research to improve our renewable energy options and to educate consumers about what clean and renewable energy products are available to them.”
Supporters of Prop. 10 include California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership, Consumers First, the city of Oakland, and Fred Keeley, Santa Cruz County Treasurer and a board member of the League of Conservation Voters, who argued in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle: “TIAX, an environmental engineering and consulting firm, estimates that upon full implementation, Prop. 10 will displace annually 75 million gallons of gasoline and 648 million gallons of diesel fuel. That is roughly $3 billion each year that we will be spending here at home rather than on polluting foreign oil.”
The opposition campaign, No on 10: A $10 Billion Lemon, is sponsored by the Consumer Federation of California and touts a wide coalition of environmental groups, consumer rights organizations, labor unions, and chambers of commerce as endorsees. Opponents target Pickens’s company’s bankrolling of the Prop. 10 campaign as an opportunistic money-grab in the name of alternative fuels. From the No on 10 website: ” ‘The California Renewable Energy and Clean Alternative Fuel Act’ — a deceptively named initiative on the November ballot — seeks to authorize $5 billion in bonds ($9.8 billion with interest), much of which would provide rebates to buyers of natural gas run vehicles and other research and development funding. It doesn’t clean the air but it does line the pockets of the billionaire who paid for it.”
Some of the same environmental groups that oppose Prop. 7 also oppose Prop. 10, such as Sierra Club California, the California League of Conservation Voters, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle also urge a “no” vote on Prop. 10. In explaining its opposition, the L.A. Times analyzed the consumer alternative vehicle rebate structure detailed in Prop. 10 and found it to unduly favor new natural gas vehicles like those sold by Clean Energy Fuels: “Buyers of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius that get combined highway-city fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon or better would be eligible for a $2,000 rebate, handed out on a first-come, first-served basis to 55,000 buyers. But if you buy a ‘clean alternative fuel vehicle,’ you get a $10,000 rebate. These are defined under Proposition 10 as cars, vans or light trucks powered by natural gas, electricity or hydrogen. Last we checked, there were no hydrogen or electric vehicles on the new-car market.”
Amendment 58, also known as the Scholarship Fund Initiative, would raise the severance tax on oil and gas companies operating in Colorado, eliminate the property tax deduction against the severance tax, and allocate the tax revenues to college scholarships, wildlife conservation and renewable energy projects, energy-impacted areas, and water treatment.
Though the political force behind Amendment 58 is Gov. Bill Ritter (D), the official campaign for Amendment 58 is lead by A Smarter Colorado and sponsored by groups and individuals such as Environment Colorado, the Colorado Education Organization, Colorado University President Bruce Benson, and former Colorado State president Al Yates. From the campaign’s website: “Amendment 58 will end Colorado’s outdated $300 million a year tax subsidy for the oil and gas industry and make smarter investments in Colorado’s future. By voting YES on 58 you will make the common sense decision to stop giving the wealthiest companies in the world huge tax breaks in Colorado.”
Ritter estimates that Amendment 58 could bring in over $200 million in new revenue to the state, and the Denver Post backed-up Ritter’s numbers in a ringing endorsement of the measure: “Someday, the current oil and gas boom will end, just as the gold and silver booms before them ended. Those earlier booms left nothing behind as a legacy except polluted streams and abandoned mine shafts. This initiative, if approved by voters, ensures that when Colorado’s oil and gas reserves are exhausted, the state’s wildlife, natural environment and the most precious resource of all, our children, will enjoy lasting benefits.”
In opposition to Amendment 58 stands Coloradans for a Stable Economy which, thanks to the major oil and gas companies operating the Colorado, has run a $10 million campaign. The Rocky Mountain News reported that the opposition broke the record for fundraising for a single issue campaign in Colorado. CSE says Amendment 58 would raise consumer prices on gasoline and heating fuels. From the website: “The poorly considered Amendment 58 is an empty promise; the language is vague and bursting with unintended consequences. The revenue from severance taxes is a valuable resource to help citizens throughout our state. That’s why it is so important that severance tax revenue is used judiciously. Amendment 58 doesn’t do that.”
In its coalition, CSE counts the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, many regional chambers of commerce, and Club 20 — an influential coalition of local governments, businesses, and individuals from Colorado’s Western Counties. Citing the unnecessary nature of the tax increase, The Rocky Mountain News also broke with the Denver Post and urged a “no” vote on Amendment 58: “Colorado is already a national leader in protecting habitat and in subsidizing renewable energy. It’s not enough to say that more money could be spent in those areas. More money could be spent on every program. Such reasoning is weak justification for a higher tax.”
Amendment 52, a counter-initiative that would maintain the present severance tax structure and redirect a majority of the funds presently going to the Department of Natural Resources — for mineral extraction, clean energy, and low-income energy assistance programs — to a new transportation trust fund to ease congestion on the I-70 corridor. Should both ballot measures pass on Nov. 4, Amendment 52 would supersede 58, as 52 is a constitutional amendment while 58 is a statutory change.
The Clean Energy Initiative, or Proposition C, would create a renewable electricity standard that requires 15 percent of the state’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2021. The measure would also require that utilities raise consumer rates no more than 1 percent per year to pay for the renewable energy.
Missourians for Cleaner Cheaper Energy sponsored the initiative with support from the American Wind Energy Association, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Sierra Club, and other renewable energy and environmental groups. Kansas City Power & Light, a subsidiary of Great Plains Energy, also endorsed the measure: “A strong renewable energy policy benefits our customers by reducing costs and stimulating the growth of the renewable energy industry locally,” said Michael Chesser, chairman and chief executive officer of Great Plains Energy, in an April news release.
There’s little organized opposition to Prop. C. AmerenUE, the St. Louis electricity utility, has expressed some reservations, but not outright opposition. The company spokesman, Tim Fox, told the West County Journal in April that the utility does not support mandates; however, the company does support renewable energy and “will soon commit to purchasing 100 megawatts of wind power to add to AmerenUE’s system.” In a Sept. interview with NPR affiliate KWMU, Fox said, “We’re neutral on this particular ballot proposal, but our concern is that renewable energy mandates could lead to significantly higher costs for our customers in the future.”
Other environmental initiatives of note:
Question No. 1 would issue a $300 million bond for the financing and refinancing of the development of water, waste disposal, water pollution control, abatement and prevention, drainage, irrigation, flood control, and wetlands and aquatic resources projects.
Prop. 1A would approve the issuance of $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds that, under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, would partially fund a high-speed train linking Southern California with the Bay Area and the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley.
Like Proposition 7, San Francisco’s Proposition H, or the “San Francisco Clean Energy Act,” would create an aggressive renewable electricity standard that would require 51 percent of the city’s electricity be sourced from “renewable sources” by 2017, 75 percent by 2030, and 100 percent — or all that is “technologically feasible or practicable” — by 2040. The measure would also call on the city to evaluate taking over the electric utility and allow the Board of Supervisors to issue bonds to buy the utility from Pacific Gas & Electric without voter approval.
According to the Yes on H campaign, the measure “will ensure San Francisco builds enough renewable and conservation projects to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040, making San Francisco a worldwide leader in the fight against global warming.” For endorsees Yes on H counts eight of the 11 members of the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Democratic and Green parties, and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
But as with Prop. 7, the San Francisco Chronicle advocated a “no” vote on Prop. H, and Mayor Gavin Newsom described it as a “thinly veiled takeover of PG&E” by public utility-activists who are using the today’s “hyper-green awareness” to win an 80-year battle to make the utilities public.
The No on H campaign considers Prop. H tantamount to a blank check to the city as it “allows the Board of Supervisors to spend billions of dollars to take over any utility WITHOUT voter approval.” No on H counts Newsom, the Chronicle, and three board supervisors among its fellow naysayers, as well as Sen. Diane Feinstein (D).
Amendment 3 [PDF] would authorize the Florida legislature to prohibit the consideration of certain improvements and changes to property when assessing the property’s value to ad valorem taxation. These changes and improvements include the installation of renewable energy source devices.
By a 60 percent vote, Amendment 4 [PDF] would institute a property-tax exemption for property placed under permanent conservation protection. In late Oct., Gov. Charlie Crist (R) endorsed the measure.
Amendment 1 would amend the Georgia Constitution to provide that the General Assembly encourage forest preservation by specially taxing certain forest lands and giving grants to local governments.
Issue 2 would authorize the state to borrow $400 million for environmental conservation. Issue 3 would create constitutional amendment protecting property rights and rights to the reasonable use of water; its supporters argue that the measure is needed to offset any threat to property rights that might come from the state’s participation in the Great Lakes Water Compact.
Question No. 742 [PDF] would give state residents the right to hunt, trap, fish and take game and fish, subject to reasonable regulation.
Question 2 would provide funds to “purchase, or otherwise permanently protect through the purchase of title to, development rights, conservation easements and public recreation easements, greenways and other open space, recreation lands, agriculture lands, forested lands and state parks.”
Proposition 1 would provide $18 billion to support mass-transit services and expand an existing light-rail system into several bedroom communities south of Seattle.
I-985 [PDF] or the Washington Reduce Traffic Congestion initiative, would open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to all traffic during specified hours, require traffic light synchronization, increase roadside assistance funding, and dedicate certain taxes, fines, tolls and other revenues to traffic-flow purposes.
The only ballot initiative for Minnesotans this year is the Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage, and Natural Areas amendment [PDF], which would raise the state sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent in order to increase state funding for natural resource protection and cultural heritage programs. The Minnesota Department of Revenue found that if passed, the amendment would increase state revenue by about $300 million per year and cost Minnesota families about $60 per year.
Are we missing any statewide or regional measures of importance to environmental groups? If so, drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.