California greens worry second ballot initiative undermines climate law

Environmentalists view it as the evil stepchild of Prop 23 — which would suspend AB 32, the state’s landmark global warming law, until California’s unemployment drops to at least 5.5 percent for one year.
 
“Now, they’re trying to strangle it by not giving it the funding it needs,” Pickman said of Prop 26.
 
Prop 26 backers — including Chevron — say the ballot initiative will not affect the climate law.
 
“As the Prop 23 effort winds down, I think its environmentalists looking for a fight elsewhere, and there’s no fight to be found here,” said Beth Miller, a spokeswoman for the "Yes on 26" campaign.
 
Prop 26 supporters have touted an analysis by a former general counsel of the California Environmental Protection Agency to underscore their argument that it would not affect regulation of state environmental law, including AB 32. Specifically, they contend it would not affect “reasonable regulatory fees necessary to implement and enforce California’s environmental laws,” according to a “fact sheet” supporters are handing out.
 
“It’s very complicated; they can’t tell you exactly what it would affect,” Pickman countered.
 
“It could have an impact on a fee to implement the program,” said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. “There’s no definitive answer to that at this point.”
 
Unlike with Prop 23, supporters of Prop 26 have greatly outraised critics, though the math is a little muddy.
 
Chevron — which has stayed out of the Prop 23 fight — as of late last week had funneled close to $3 million and had been the single biggest corporate giver to a pool of money being used to both get Prop 26 passed and to defeat Prop 25, which would end the two-thirds requirement for passing budgets in the California legislature. Others that have contributed to that pool of money include the state’s Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, ConocoPhillips and an assortment of beer and wine interests, including Anheuser-Busch.
 
“We believe Proposition 26 … will help get California’s economy moving again and promote job growth,” Chevron spokesman Morgan Crinklaw said.
 
But he added that Prop 26 has nothing to do with undermining either AB 32 or state efforts to address oil spills and other environmental problems.
 
“Bullpucky,” said Warner Chabot, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters. “Why else would you believe the oil industry is the biggest funder to date … to pass this?”


It is difficult to gauge support on Prop 26 given the lack of public polling, but the fact that it dips into the world of tax law and is not easily understandable could work against it, as Californians are skeptical enough about ballot initiatives.
 
“The low level of awareness makes them fair game for ads but also makes it harder to gain support,” said Tom Thomas, a professor at San Francisco State University.
 
Prop 23, meanwhile, is losing steam. A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll released Monday showed 48 percent of likely voters opposing the ballot initiative. Ballot initiatives — particularly in California — usually need to have majority support well before a week left before voters go to the polls.
 
“Typically if an initiative starts out with less than overwhelming support — if it’s an initiative that has to do with business interests — it’s not likely to win,” Thomas said. Voters are particularly swayed by TV ads meant to confuse them on what a ballot initiative actually does. “In the face of confusion, voters typically don’t vote or vote no,” Thomas said.
 
But he added that there is still a low awareness of either Prop 23 or 26 among less educated voters who may be persuaded easier by late campaigning. “Those numbers can really move on Election Day,” he said. “I’d say it’s still a little dicey, it’s still a little up in the air.”