Archive for the ‘Proposition 23’ Category

In The New York Times on Friday, I wrote about the organizers of California’s No on Proposition 23 campaign resurrecting their coalition to press for green energy policies in the Golden State and Washington:

George P. Shultz, the Republican former secretary of state, and Thomas F. Steyer, the Democratic hedge fund billionaire, are reviving the coalition that campaigned last year to defeat Proposition 23, the California ballot measure that would have derailed the state’s’ landmark global warming law.

Their new organization, Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, will push for greater investment in green technology and the enforcement of the global warming law, known as A.B. 32, according to Mr. Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital Management in San Francisco.

“We’re going to be fighting to make sure it is implemented in a way that not just creates businesses here, but the jobs stay here, and we get the kind of growth that will show the country that this way of thinking is intensely practical and real world,” Mr. Steyer said on Friday at a news conference.

“I hate to say we’re getting the band back together, but we’re getting the band back together,” he added.

Mr. Steyer and Mr. Shultz served as co-chairmen of the “No on 23″ campaign, which drew support from Silicon Valley venture capitalists, mainstream businesses, labor unions, environmentalists and minority groups. The No campaign won 61.4 percent of the vote last November to reject Proposition 23, which was largely backed by two Texas oil companies.

Mr. Shultz said the new group also hopes to have an impact in Washington, but he and Mr. Steyer were vague on specific policies they would support.

“The most important thing the federal government can do is to have substantial and sustained support for energy R&D – that’s what’s going to produce the game changers,” Mr. Shultz said.

In a speech last week in San Francisco, Mr. Steyer laid out a national strategy to fight Republican efforts to limit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

But on Friday, he kept his focus on California, saying that the “No on 23″ campaign had about $1 million left in its coffers that would be used to support the new group’s efforts.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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In The New York Times on Tuesday, I wrote about the strategy of San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, the leader of the campaign against Proposition 23 last year, to fight efforts to restrict the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions:

Is Thomas F. Steyer the anti-Koch?

For years, Mr. Steyer, a billionaire San Francisco hedge fund manager, assiduously maintained a low profile while becoming a major donor to Democratic candidates. That changed in 2010 when he led the successful fight to defeat Proposition 23, a California ballot measure backed by two Texas oil companies and a company controlled by Charles G. and David H. Koch, the secretive billionaire brothers and bankrollers of conservative causes.

Proposition 23 would have effectively derailed the state’s landmark global warming law, which would have been a big setback for California’s blooming green technology industry. Mr. Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management, is the main financial backer of Greener Capital, a venture firm that invests in renewable energy start-ups.

Now Mr. Steyer appears to be itching to take on the Koch brothers and their supporters as Republican lawmakers seek to limit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “As an investor who one might say is insanely obsessed with energy and its generation and use around the world, it seems crazy to me we would roll back science-based clean air standards because there are skillful political operatives and wealthy political donors who really want to get rid of E.P.A. regulations,” he said in a speech Monday evening at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco. “That seems nuts to me.”

While Mr. Steyer did not mention the Koch brothers directly in his speech, he assailed their support for Proposition 23 during the campaign.

Mr. Steyer, who said he had spent time consulting with the Obama administration after last November’s election, laid out a political strategy to focus on swing states and promote environmental regulation as a boon for job creation, drawing on lessons from the battle over Proposition 23.

“It’s all about public health and clean air,” he said. “It’s all about creating new jobs and really what we’re fighting is self-interested dirty energy companies.”

He noted that opponents of a Democrats’ failed efforts to pass climate change legislation last year had gone state by state to talk about potential job losses from capping greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our strategy going forward as a group is that we have to have answers on the state and local level,” Mr. Steyer said. “The idea that we would change the way energy is generated and used in the United States without engaging the American people locally in a real way seems to me to be wrong.”

Mr. Steyer said he had consulted with Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader and adviser to former President Bill Clinton, to gain a better understanding of how the civil rights movement organized its campaigns.

“I asked, ‘How did you guys do it? How did you change the way Americans think about civil rights, something that nobody was anxious to engage on as far as I can tell but where there was a gross need for change, just as there is here,’ ” Mr. Steyer said.

You can read the rest of the story here.

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

This week’s election once again showed California as a true-blue state, with Democrats taking the governorship and other top offices in a landslide (though the race for state attorney general remains too close to call). But truth be told, California is a true blue beach state, with the heavily populated, mostly Democratic coast bordering a vast inland red sea.

Still, it when came to the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 — the ballot measure that would have suspended California’s landmark global warming law — California was a remarkably green state, from Malibu to the Sierra Nevada, from remote Del Norte County on the Oregon border to San Diego.

County-by-county election results from the California Secretary of State’s office show a rout of the Texas oil companies bankrolled Prop 23 not only in places like San Francisco (where No forces took 82 percent of the vote) and Los Angeles (with a 67.6 percent No vote) but in conservative, Tea Partying strongholds.

For instance, while the inland Southern California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino went for Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor, over Democrat Jerry Brown, they voted No on 23.

In fact, except for a handful of sparsely populated counties in the far north and center of the state (along with such outliers as Orange County), most of California’s conservative heartland voted to preserve the climate change law that requires greenhouse gas emissions to be cut to 1990 levels by 2020.

Even in San Diego County, heavily populated and heavily Republican, 55.8 percent of voters cast ballots against Prop 23.

The fact that the No campaign raised three times as much cash as the Texas oil companies and assembled a broad-based, bipartisan coalition of environmentalists, unions, venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, big corporations, and environmental justice activists certainly was key to the election.

And the No forces’ message that Prop 23 would kill green jobs seemed to resonate in counties like Riverside and San Bernardino, where the unemployment rate has hit 15 percent this year.

Those counties also happen to be home to a large number of planned renewable energy projects. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, state and federal regulators approved big solar power plants that officials estimate will create more than 8,000 jobs in a region where the housing collapse has devastated the building industry.

Two weeks before the election, I was out in the Mojave Desert as construction began on BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar thermal power plant. Over the next three years, Ivanpah will employ 1,000 workers.

One of them, Basilio Yniguez, a 36-year-old father of seven from San Bernardino County, told me he had been out of work for a year.

“Thanks to the green thing going up, I’m working,” he said.

And given that 61.1 percent of California voters voted against Prop 23, that green jobs message apparently worked as well.

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photo: eSolar

I wrote this story for Sustainable Industries, where it first appeared.

The landslide defeat Tuesday of Proposition 23, the California ballot measure that would have suspended the state’s landmark global warming law, was not enough to stop Proposition 26, another initiative that could complicate efforts to launch a cap-and-trade market in the Golden State.

Prop 26, which like Prop 23 was backed by the oil industry, will reclassify some environmental fees as taxes that will require a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature to impose. Some environmentalists and green business owners fear that would hinder the implementation of California’s global warming law, known as AB 32.

But on Wednesday, a top California official said that since Prop 26 applies only to laws enacted after Jan. 1, it should not affect AB 32, which was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

“We do not believe our efforts will be derailed as a result of Proposition 26 passing,” Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, the agency charged with implementing AB 32, said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “It’s full speed ahead.”

“There is a scoping plan already in the process of being implemented,” she said.

AB 32 requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Last Friday, the Air Resources Board released its proposed plan to create a cap-and-trade market that would impose emissions limits on some industrial sectors beginning in 2012.

Questions  — and possible legal battles — remain, however, about how Prop 26 would affect any future fees imposed on polluters as a result of AB 32.

“Many, many programs will be affected,” said Annie Notthoff, California political director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, referring to Prop 26’s impact on other environmental efforts. “But the broad objectives of AB 32 are not affected at all.”

You can read the rest of the story here.

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photo: Todd Woody

I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

When you mix red and blue in a state like California, you get green.

Tuesday’s landslide defeat of Proposition 23 — the ballot measure bankrolled by Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero that would have suspended the state’s landmark global-warming law — marked the emergence of a bipartisan, enviro-business coalition that spanned the demographic divide.

With nearly all ballots counted Wednesday morning, 61.3 percent of voters rejected Prop 23 in the nation’s first statewide plebiscite on a climate-change law.

Equally important, voters swept into California’s top offices a slate of environmentalists led by Gov.-elect Jerry Brown of Oakland. In what amounts to a takeover of Sacramento by Bay Area deep green Democrats, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor and Kamala Harris, San Francisco’s district attorney, looks like she will become the attorney general if her narrow lead holds. Both Brown and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer decisively dispatched Republican candidates who opposed or would undermine the global-warming law, known as AB 32.

Brown, of course, set California down the green path in the 1970s during his first term as governor. He pushed renewable energy projects, energy efficiency, and other policies that would set the stage for the state’s green tech boom and that would be embraced by a successor (and now a predecessor), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

And the passage of Proposition 25, which allows the state legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority rather than a two-thirds vote, should ease the way for the passage of a green agenda.

But voters also threw a spanner in the works on Tuesday when they passed oil industry–backed Proposition 26, which will reclassify certain environmental fees as taxes and require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to impose them. It remains unclear how exactly that will hinder the implementation of AB 32.

The question now is whether Tuesday’s election is another example of California exceptionalism or a template for other states (given that chances for congressional action on climate change seem slim to none).

And so does this new green alliance — of big environmental groups, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and tech giants, hedge-fund managers, old economy businesses, and environmental-justice activists — continue or wither now that the threat to AB 32 has passed?

Clearly, many in the No on 23 coalition see the defeat of the ballot measure as the beginning, not the end, of a much larger campaign.

“Great campaigns are ones that win the victory you want but also build power for the long haul,” Danny Kennedy, cofounder of Oakland solar company Sungevity and a former Greenpeace activist, said at a Prop 23 fundraiser in September that brought together hedge-fund titans and venture capitalists with environmental-justice advocates. “And this is one of those,” he told the crowd. “This is a really fun opportunity because we’re going to beat those boys back to Texas where they came from and we’re going to build this beautiful thing we see in the seed of this group in this room.”

Bob Epstein, a founder of E2 Environmental Entrepreneurs, said at the group’s conference in San Francisco last week, “if we want to build this into a national movement, state by state, the messaging is critical.”

“Every campaign has three items: It has a victim, it has a villain, and it has an opportunity,” said Epstein. “The No side says, ‘Stop the dirty energy proposal brought to you by two Texas oil companies.’ It’s all emotional. The reason? It will make the air dirtier, it’ll harm our clean energy jobs, and it’ll keep us on fossil fuels. The victim: Anyone who breathes air near a refinery. The villain: In this case, Valero volunteered.”

On the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, Annie Notthoff, the group’s California political director, analyzed the election. “We have pitched a very large tent, and we accommodate people of all political points of view,” she wrote. “But we agree on a couple of things, and those transcend all our differences: We need to get people working, and we need to develop new sources of clean, domestic energy that support the economy and improve public health. Until we do that, everything else is a sideshow.”

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

As voters head to the polls Tuesday, opponents of Proposition 23, the California ballot measure that would suspend the state’s global warming law, are hoping the San Francisco Giants’ win over the Texas Rangers augurs well for the outcome of the election.

The latest polls show Prop 23, which is backed by Texas oil companies and the petrochemical industry, heading to defeat, though a large number of voters remained undecided.

(The No on 23 campaign ran a full-page ad in the sports section of the San Francisco Chronicle during the World Series urging fans to defeat Texas at the polls and the baseball park.)

The lack of enthusiasm for Prop 23 could be seen in the final fundraising disclosures filed with the California Secretary of State’s office.

As the election ends, the No on 23 forces have raised $31.3 million to the Yes effort’s $10.7 million. In the final week of the campaign, the Yes campaign raised only $6,000, including a $5,000 donation from NACS, previously known as the National Association of Convenience Stores.

Prop 23 opponents continued to rake in the cash right up to Election Day, with more than $766,000 filling coffers in the final week of the campaign. Among the big contributors in the last week was the California Democratic Party, which gave $224,534. Sempra Energy, which owns one of the state’s largest utilities, San Diego Gas & Electric, made another $25,000 contribution.

That fundraising prowess is in part a reflection of the broad-based coalition the No on 23 campaign put together. Among those making common cause to preserve California’s climate change law are national environmental groups, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and tech giants, hedge fund managers, old economy businesses, and environmental justice activists.

The global warming law, known as AB 32, requires California to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Prop 23 would suspend the law until the state unemployment rate — currently 12.4 percent — falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, something that has happened only three times in the past four decades.

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I wrote this story for Grist, where it first appeared.

Every day seems to be green day for California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as his term terminates and he works to cement his environmental legacy

On Wednesday, the governator started his morning in the Mojave Desert at the official groundbreaking for BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah 370-megawatt solar power plant, the first large-scale solar thermal farm to be built in the United States in two decades.

By the afternoon, Schwarzenegger had materialized in Silicon Valley. He joined Avatar director James Cameron for a live webcast from tech company Applied Materials to unveil a new online commercial opposing Proposition 23, the ballot measure that would suspend California’s landmark global warming law. The governor considers the climate change law, known as AB 32, to be one of his crowning achievements in office.

Backed by two Texas oil companies, Prop 23 would effectively kill the global warming law — which requires California to slash greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — by suspending it until the state unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. (Something as likely to happen anytime soon as Schwarzenegger giving up his trademark cigars.)

“The people who tried to take out AB 32 through Proposition 23 are the people who are really the biggest polluters of our state, Texan oil companies,” said Schwarzenegger, sharing the stage with Cameron, who directed him in the Terminator movies and True Lies, and Tom Steyer, the founder of a $20 billion San Francisco hedge fund and the chair of the No on 23 campaign.

(Before the webcast began, an open microphone caught Schwarzenegger chatting with Cameron and Steyer. Alas, no racy reminiscences of the Terminator’s Hollywood days — just the governor enthusing over the BrightSource Energy project.)

The ad opens with a wide shot of Cameron sitting in an office surrounded by movie mementos.

“I’ve made movies about a cyborg assassin sent to annihilate humanity, an unsinkable ship on a collision course with an iceberg, and about a mineral-rich alien moon facing environmental destruction,” says the director, who has donated $1 million to the No on 23 campaign. “Those are movies. But we face a real threat right now in California. Two oil companies from Texas are pushing Prop 23. This deceptive ballot measure would be the ultimate real-life disaster, terminating our air pollution standards, sinking our clean energy economy and exploiting our environment for profit.”

“We can do something as people who care about the future of California,” Cameron continues. “We can say no on Prop 23, to stop the dirty energy proposition. Tell your friends and family, cyborgs, and avatars, to vote no on 23 before it’s too late. ”

The camera pans to Schwarzenegger, holding up a robotic arm, saying, “Why do you keeping calling me a cyborg?”

With less than a week to go until Election Day, the “no” forces appear to be on a roll, holding a three-to-one advantage over the “yes” campaign in fundraising and with polls showing Prop 23 losing by a wide margin.

But with a Los Angeles Times/USC poll this week showing 15 percent of likely voters undecided, the Terminator apparently is determined not to stop. Ever.

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