California Proposition 7 (2008)

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California Proposition 7, would, if approved, require California utilities to procure half of their power from renewable resources by 2025. In order to make that goal, levels of production of solar, wind and other renewable energy resources will more than quadruple from their current output of 10.9%. [1] It will also require California utilities to increase their purchase of electricity generated from renewable resources by 2% annually to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) [2] requirements of 40% in 2020 and 50% in 2025. Current law AB32 requires an RPS of 20% by 2010.

The 42 page measure is an initiated state statute that has qualified for the November 2008 ballot in California.[3] The petition drive to qualify the measure for the ballot was conducted by Progressive Campaigns, Inc. at a cost of $1.367 million.[4]

Perhaps to distinguish it from Proposition 10, which also is about alternative fuels, some California pundits are starting to refer to Prop. 7 as Big Solar and Prop. 10 as Big Wind.[5]

[edit] Provisions in the initiative

  • All electric utilities (including municipally-owned utilities) will be required to provide half of their electricity from solar and clean energy facilities by 2025. This requirement doubles what utilities will be required to do by 2025 under the Renewable Portfolio Standard. That law requires the state’s energy mix to be 20 percent renewable by 2010. California utilities are currently at a mix of 10.9% renewable.
  • The California Energy Commission will be required to identify solar and clean energy zones, primarily in the desert, to jump-start clean power plants.
  • Renewable plant construction permits would be fast-tracked for approval by the California Energy Commission once all environmental reviews are in place. Fast-tracking would limit the period for local comments and participation to 100 days.
  • Penalties levied on utilities for specific acts of non-compliance would be reduced from 5% to 1%, but the total cap on fines that can be imposed on a utility would be eliminated thus effectively increasing the total incurred financial penalties.
  • The California Energy Commission (CEC) will have the authority and responsibility to allocate funds from these penalties into the construction and implementation of new and existing transmission lines to provide access for renewable energy to the grid.
  • Utilities will be prohibited from passing along penalties to their electric rate-payers.
  • Caps price impacts on consumer's electricity bills at less than 3 percent. However, the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst's Office states that “the measure includes no specific provisions to implement or enforce this declaration”.
  • Renewable energy sources will be defined and recognized as solar thermal, photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, small hydro, biomass, and tidal.
  • Utilities entering into contracts with alternative fuel providers will be required to sign 20-year contracts.

[edit] Estimated fiscal impact

The California Legislative Analyst's Office, the nonpartisan state agency charged with providing a neutral estimate about the fiscal impact on the state of ballot initiatives and state legislative bills, has arrived at the following summary of Prop. 7's estimated costs:

  • State administrative costs of up to $3.4 million annually for the regulatory activities of the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, paid for by fee revenues. The total cost to taxpayers of Proposition 7, using 2007-2008 state budget for comparison, would be 0.00002% of the state budget.
  • Potential, unknown increased costs and reduced revenues, particularly in the short term, to state and local governments resulting from the measure’s potential to increase retail electricity rates, with possible offsetting cost savings and revenue increases, to an unknown degree, over the long term to the extent the measure hastens renewable energy development.

[edit] Supporters

The official committee supporting Prop 7 is called Californians for Solar and Clean Energy.

The primary financial backer of the initiative is Peter Sperling. Peter Sperling has been a member of the board of directors of the Apollo group since 1997, but has been part of the Apollo group since 1983. Sperling was involved with the effort to protect the Santa Barbara grasslands in the city of Goleta, located on Elwood Mesa.

Marc Gonzales, a former San Francisco supervisor, is the initiative's chief spokesperson. Gonzalez says of Prop. 7, "It’s OK to pat yourself on the back for buying a twisty bulb or hybrid car, but wouldn’t it be better to go out and vote for something that’s going to reduce tons of emissions?"[5]

Notable supporters of Proposition 7 include:

  • Progressive Democrats of America - Monterey County
  • Alicia Wang - Vice Chair, California Democratic Party*
  • John L. Burton - Past President pro Tem California State Senate, and former Chair, California Democratic Party.
  • Neil Eisenberg - Chairman of the Board, The Oceanic Society*
  • James Gollin - Chair, Board of Directors, Rainforest Action Network
  • Senator Martha Escutia (ret.) - Former Chair of the State Senate Energy Committee
  • Randall Hayes - environmental activist
  • Dolores Huerta - Co-Founder of the United Farmworkers Union*
  • Gordon Roddick - Environmental Activist and Co-Founder, The Body Shop*
  • Christine Pelosi - Former Executive Director, California Democratic Party[6]

[edit] Donors who support Prop. 7

As of July 15, two donors have contributed $5,000 or more to support Prop. 7. They are:

[edit] The opposition campaign

The formal group opposing Prop. 7 is called Californians Against Another Costly Energy Scheme. The coalition includes the California Democratic Party, the California Republican Party, the California Labor Federation, the California Taxpayers' Association, the League of California Cities and the California Solar Energy Industries Association. A separate coalition of environmental organizations has been formed, including the California League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.

See also: List of Proposition 7 opponents.

[edit] Arguments made against Prop. 7

Arguments that have been made against Proposition 7 include:

  • It could "slam the brakes on renewable energy development in the state.".[8]
  • The measure is "poorly written and so complicated that it could hurt the cause of renewable energy in the state."[9]
  • Ralph Cavanaugh of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Los Angeles Times that the "initiative was put together by people who didn't know what they were doing." As a result, he says, it "opens the way for many unintended consequences".[9]
  • V. John White, Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies told the Los Angeles Times that “the initiative locks all the dysfunctional complexity into place and would require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to change it."[9]
  • "It freezes up transmission, because it's not clear who has the authority to site what,” said Jan Smutny-Jones, Executive Director, Independent Energy Producers Association in Greenwire. “It would automatically lead us to litigation."[10]

[edit] Donors who oppose Prop. 7

As of August 2, three donors are listed as having given $5,000 or more to defeat this initiative. They are:

  • PG&E, $12,895,250.
  • Edison, $10,720,250.
  • Sempra, $104,000.[11],[5],[12]

[edit] Campaign consultants

The opposition coalition as of July 14, 2008 had paid about $175,000 to the campaign consulting firm of Townsend, Raimundo, Besler & Usher.[13]

[edit] Polling information

A poll released on July 22, 2008 by Field Poll showed Proposition 7 with 63% support and 24% opposition. 82% of those surveyed had no initial awareness of Proposition 7. [14]

Month of Poll In Favor Opposed Undecided
July 2008 63 percent 24 percent 13 percent

[edit] Lawsuits over ballot language

Supporters and opponents of Proposition 7 filed lawsuits in Sacramento Superior Court regarding the wording of ballot arguments that voters will see in the official voter's guide. Utimately, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny upheld both proponents and opponents arguments, essentially ruling both arguments were correct.[15]

The lawsuit filed by proponents of Prop. 7 claimed that the opposition’s ballot arguments contained “false or misleading statements” that should be deleted. However, Sacramento Superior County Judge Michael Kenny ultimately upheld opponents arguments that the measure contains language that could shut small wind, solar and other renewable energy companies out of California's market.

The lawsuit filed by opponents of Prop. 7 argued that Proposition 7 would have "serious, negative unintended consequences" that are not adequately captured in the voter's guide. They particularly wanted a judge to delete three statements in the voter's guide, including statements by proponents that:

  • Prop 7 will help create over 370,000 new prevailing wage jobs
  • Prop 7 prohibits the utilities from passing on their penalty costs to consumers if they fail to meet renewable energy standards
  • Prop 7 is guaranteed to never add more than 3% per year to consumer electricity bills.

Speaking for opponents, Sue Kateley, Executive Director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said, “After carefully reviewing the facts and both sides’ extensive legal filings, the judge upheld our argument that Proposition 7 contains language that could devastate small renewable energy providers in California and force them out of the market. Prop. 7 would exclude renewable power facilities smaller than 30 megawatts from counting toward the measure’s new requirements. This would likely drive California’s small solar, wind and renewable power providers out of business, eliminating a major source of clean energy and thousands of jobs.”

Speaking for proponents, Marc Gonzales, former San Francisco County Supervisor, said, “We applaud the Court’s decision upholding the Yes on 7 ballot arguments without any changes. This will make clear that Prop. 7 is about fighting global warming and achieving energy independence. The Court’s decision clarifies the real choices for solar and clean energy facing California voters on November 4th.”[16]

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. California Distributed Energy Resources Guide
  2. Renewable Portfolio Standard
  3. Sacramento Bee: "Renewable power initiative poised for ballot, draws fire, April 8, 2008
  4. Campaign expenditure details
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Sacramento News & Review, "California ballot: Betting on Big Solar", July 3, 2008
  6. Titles for identification purposes only.
  7. Donors to Prop. 7
  8. Los Angeles Times, "Opponents say California power initiative is ill-advised", April 8, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 San Francisco Chroncicle, "Surprise opponents to renewable energy measure", July 5, 2008
  10. “RENEWABLE ENERGY: Utilities earmark big bucks to stop Calif. ballot measure,” Greenwire, June 19, 2008
  11. List of large donors opposing Prop 7
  12. Money talks loudly in Prop 7 contest
  13. Anti-7 expenditures
  14. July 22 Field Poll results on Proposition 7
  15. Ballot language battle could be key for Prop. 7, August 6, 2008
  16. "Prop 7 Court ruling Press Release", August 7,2008

[edit] Additional reading

To connect to everything on Ballotpedia about California and its ballot—laws, history, statewide ballot measures, ballot access, and more, visit: