Californians Reject Effort To Suspend Climate Law

(November 3, 2010)

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November 3, 2010


In a key test for U.S. environmental policy, Californians voted Tuesday in favor of the state's landmark climate change law, defeating a ballot measure backed by Texas-based oil companies that would have suspended it.

They rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended the air pollution control law until California's unemployment rate -- now 12.4% -- fell to 5.5.% for a full year.

The measure prompted "Don't Mess with California" ads and a well-financed "No on 23" campaign by a bipartisan group of clean tech financiers, environmentalists, health groups, celebrities including movie director James Cameron and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the law in 2006. They raised $31.2 million -- three times as much as the ballot measure's supporters, according to MapLight.org, a non-partisan group that tracked campaign donations.

"Proposition 23 is a really significant initiative, not just for California, but for the nation as a whole," said Jennie Drage Bowser of the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures. She said it could affect whether Congress passes legislation to tackle climate change.

Environmentalists cheered the measure's defeat. "California will continue to be a model for clean energy innovation," said Martin Chavez, executive director of ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA.

The law's first major provisions are slated to take effect next year. Utilities will have to obtain at least 33% of their electricity from renewable sources within a decade.

Steven Maviglio of the "No on 23" campaign said suspending the law would have cost jobs in the clean-tech industry, which he called "one of the few bright spots in our economy." He said California entrepreneurs didn''t want out-of-state oil interests dictating state policy, and health groups such as the American Lung Association wanted cleaner air.

Proposition 23's supporters said California's law, which would require companies to cap their emissions, would cost 1 million jobs. "This is the wrong time to implement costly new measures," said Bill Day of Valero Energy Corp. Valero, a San Antonio company that has two refineries in California, donated $5 million to promote the measure. Tesoro Corporation, also based in San Antonio, donated $2 million.

The law aims to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.