14 September 2010

Tonight we’ll be taking a close look at Proposition 23 on the November California Ballot; it would suspend 2006 historic climate change legislation, arguing that cutting down on pollution is costing jobs in the Golden State. Our guest will be Jessica Allen of Vote Down Proposition 23.  She has been leading the opposition here in the Northstate.  We’ll also look at the background of this issue—the 2006 climate-change bill that would be suspended by Prop 23, and we’ll review the arguments that are being made by Prop 23s sponsors and proponents.

Listen to the program.

Background on Proposition 23

To help us understand the proposition more fully, we want to roll back the clock a few years to this press release by Governor Schwarzenegger, dated September 27, 2006.  Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emission. It reads:

Joined by national and international dignitaries who have been leaders in the fight against global climate change, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 32 by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles), California’s landmark bill that establishes a first-in-the-world comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve real, quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases.

“When I campaigned for governor three years ago, I said I wanted to make California No. 1 in the fight against global warming. This is something we owe our children and our grandchildren,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger at signing ceremonies in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

“Some have challenged whether[the] AB 32 [climate change bill] is good for businesses. I say unquestionably it is good for businesses. Not only large, well-established businesses, but small businesses that will harness their entrepreneurial spirit to help us achieve our climate goals.

“Using market-based incentives, we will reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. That’s a 25 percent reduction.  And by 2050, we will reduce emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels. We simply must do everything in our power to slow down global warming before it’s too late.”

 The Núñez bill required the California Air Resources Board (CARB):

to develop regulations and market mechanisms that would ultimately reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Mandatory caps will begin in 2012 for significant sources and ratchet down to meet the 2020 goals. 

The bill also provided the Governor with the ability to

invoke a safety valve and to suspend the emissions caps for up to one year in the case of an emergency or significant economic harm.

If you want to learn more about the 2006 climate control bill, AB 32, check out these two links:



 Though he has the power to suspend AB 32. Governor Schwarzenegger has refused to do that in the current recessession, arguing that the climate legislation is vital to the environment and is promoting green jobs in the state.

 Opponents then created a petition drive, led in part by Northstate Assemblyman Dan Logue, which was successful in putting Proposition 23 on the ballot.  We’ll read from the ballot summary as provided by the Secretary of State’s office.  Proposition 23:

Suspends State laws requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. [It] Requires [the] State to abandon implementation of comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted’

[A] “Summary of estimate” by […the State] Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government [identifies]: Potential positive, short-term impacts on state and local government revenues from the suspension of regulatory activity, with uncertain longer-run impacts. Potential foregone state revenues from the auctioning of emission allowances by state government, by suspending the future implementation of cap-and-trade regulations. [emphasis added]

We note editorially that the financial impact statement does not take into account green jobs that would be lost or never created if Prop 23 is enacted.

Proponents of Prop 23 argue—and here we quote the Secretary of State’s ballot summary that:

 Yes on 23 saves jobs, prevents energy tax increases, and helps families, while preserving California’s clean air and water laws. California can’t afford self-imposed energy costs that don’t reduce global warming. 2.3 million Californians are unemployed; Proposition 23 will save over a million jobs that would be otherwise be destroyed.

The opponents argue that:

Texas oil companies designed 23 to kill clean energy and air pollution standards in California. 23 threatens public health with more air pollution, increases dependence on costly oil, and kills competition from job-creating California wind and solar companies.

In a September 9 editorial, the San Jose Mercury News wrote:

Proponents — primarily oil companies who have donated millions to the campaign — say that when it’s implemented through a cap-and-trade system, AB 32 will raise energy prices so much that businesses will be forced to lay off workers or move out of state. (That assertion [says the Mercury News] is very much in question.) With more than 2 million Californians unemployed, they argue that it’s the wrong time to implement it.

The Mercury News editorial continues, however, by pointing out how Prop 23 would eviscerate California’s clean energy business.  They continue:

… [I]t would be an absolute calamity to turn off the magnet that’s attracting billions of dollars in job-creating investment. In 2009, 40 percent of cleantech venture capital went to California, where some 12,000 companies are working on ways that could help businesses and consumers reduce energy consumption. More than 500,000 people work in the industry, including 93,000 in manufacturing.

The San Jose Mercury News editorial concludes:

Supporters of Proposition 23 are right about one thing: Job creation is absolutely essential to California’s future. Which is precisely why voters should reject the measure — it would kill the state’s primary economic engine, now and for years to come.


 We searched for other editorials on the topic.  Papers such as the Ventura County Star, the Sonoma County Press Democrat, and San Diego’s East Country Magazine, and Desert Sun of Palm Springs all oppose Prop 23.

We only found one editorial favoring the proposition, that in the Orange County Register, which argued that:

 Even without the Global Warming Solutions Act [AB 32], the state’s numerous clean air and water laws are the nation’s strictest. As we have noted repeatedly, the Draconian and unnecessary Global Warming Solutions Act fully implemented would result in more than 1 million lost jobs and billions of dollars in higher energy and other costs, while accomplishing nothing regarding global warming. Suspending its implementation, particularly in this economy, is prudent.


Recent Report from UCBerkeley:

Here’s an article from the Sacramento Bee published just  last Thursday, September 9.  Reporter Rick Daysog writes of a newly released study of Prop 23s impacts coming from the University of California, Berkeley.  He wrote:

Suspending California’s landmark climate change law would result in the loss of millions of dollars in state revenue and hurt the state’s growing clean-tech industry, a new report says.

The Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at the University of California, Berkeley Law School also said the rollback initiative, Proposition 23, would benefit oil and power companies while increasing regulatory burdens to real estate developers and auto makers

“It adds significant uncertainty at a time when we have a lot of economic uncertainty,” the report’s co-author Dan Farber said.

California’s climate change law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, attempts to reduce carbon emissions statewide to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

The rollback measure seeks to suspend the law until the statewide unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or below for four quarters in a row.

Farber said Proposition 23 would force the state to suspend a $63 million fee it plans to charge oil companies, utilities and other energy companies.

It also would require the state to set aside a cap-and-trade program that places limits on greenhouse gas emissions from oil refiners, utilities and other energy companies.

Under such a system, the state would sell carbon allowances to the state’s largest polluters, which could then use those allowances to offset their emissions or sell them on a secondary market.

Estimates of the state’s revenues from a cap-and-trade system have ranged from $220 million to $550 million.

Another “casualty” according to the UCBerkeley report would be:

[…] California’s budding clean-tech sector.

Part of AB 32 requires utilities to purchase about a third of their energy supply from renewable sources.

Setting aside the law would result in the loss of clean jobs and limit investments in new technologies, the report said.

The study also said Proposition 23 will create inequities between industries regulated by different climate change laws.

Oil companies and utilities would be relieved of their burdens under AB 32 while real estate developers and car makers governed by a separate set of climate change laws could see increased pressures from regulators, the report said.

“You’re going to end up with this patchwork of climate change regulations that will affect some sectors and not others,” Farber said.

 Anita Mangels, spokeswoman for the Yes on 23 committee, disputed the report. She said Proposition 23 would have a positive impact on state revenue and California’s economy.

She cited a July study by the state Legislative Analyst’s Office which said the state could see “a potentially significant increase in revenue” from greater economic activity if AB 32 was delayed


We want to add that reader comments appended to this article on the Sac Bee website were vitriolic, mostly challenging the conclusions of the Berkeley study and generally attacking the idea of climate change, Al Gore, the University of California, while arguing for the factual basis of Fox news.

 To take the pulse of some of the people and their reaction to the debate, we’d recommend that you read both the article and the responses. 



Our Questions for Jessica Allen

  • Please tell us something of your biography and background.  How did you come to be involved in Vote Down 23?
  • What are the elements in Proposition 23 that you oppose?
  • Attorney General Jerry Brown originally phrased Prop 23 this way: “”Suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for full year.”  However his use of the word “pollution” was challenged in court in favor of language that talks about “greenhouse gas emissions.”  What’s the difference?  What is Prop 23 really about?
  • Who is behind Prop 23?  Who is putting financial support into it?
  • The No on 23 campaign has also received a good deal of cash. Who are the major contributors opposing 23?
  • Proponents of Prop 23 assert that California’s environmental laws are a job killer, forcing industry out of the state and costing up to one million jobs. And the legislative analysis, which we read earlier, predicts “Potential positive, short-term impacts on state and local government revenues from the suspension of regulatory activity, with uncertain longer-run impacts.”  Isn’t it true that clamping down on emissions does cost jobs, does cause businesses to move to states with more lax climate laws?
  • The Orange County Register has said that it in our current economic downturn, it is “prudent” to suspend the climate change laws until the unemployment  rate goes down.  What is your response?
  • There are conflicting arguments about energy costs.  Proponents of 23 claim that our current climate change laws are driving up energy costs: “Up to 60 percent in higher electricity rates, $3.7 billion a year in higher gasoline and diesel prices, and up to 56% increase in natural gas rates.”  The opposition says that repealing AB 32 would cause a 1/3 increase in electric bills by 2020.  Please explain those claims.
  • Opponents of Prop 23 have claimed that our climate change laws actually are creating jobs for California.  What is your evidence for that?
  • The original AB 32 calls for a cap-and-trade approach to greenhouse gas emissions, where the state sells and industries buy carbon credits.  Other guests on this show have called this approach pollution-for-sale, enabling wealthy polluters to continue on their ways. Can you defend this aspect of AB 32?  Isn’t it already a kind of compromise bill?
  • As we close, please tell our listeners how they can become more fully informed about this debate and become involved.

 As we close, and in the spirit of fairness, we are puttingincluding pro and con links on the website:

The proponents of Prop 23 have marshaled their arguments at: http://www.yeson23.com/

And the opponents are at www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com

Playlist for Eco 104–Prop 23

  1.  Black Moon (Album Version)        6:59        Emerson, Lake & Palmer        Black Moon       
  2.  Only So Much Oil In The Ground (LP Version)        3:50        Tower of Power        Urban Renewal       
  3.  Slower Than Guns (LP Version)        3:50        Iron Butterfly        Metamorphosis       
  4.  Supernova        4:42        Liquid Blue        Supernova       
  5.  North Sea Oil (2004 Digital Remaster)        3:12        Jethro Tull        Stormwatch       
  6.  Weave Me the Sunshine        4:28        Peter, Paul And Mary        The Very Best of   Peter, Paul and Mary       
  7.  Don’t Go Near The Water (2000 Digital Remaster)        2:43        The Beach Boys        Sunflower/Surf’s Up