New York Times
Published: November 3, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO — California voters yesterday upheld the state’s global warming law on two fronts, rejecting a Republican candidate for governor who wanted to delay it while turning aside a referendum funded by oil companies that would have dismantled the measure for years to come.
With roughly half of all precincts reporting at press time this morning, national and state news organizations had proclaimed victory for Democrat Jerry Brown over Republican Meg Whitman in the gubernatorial race and a sizable defeat for Proposition 23, which would have delayed California’s climate change law until unemployment in the state dropped to 5.5 percent for a full year.
Prop 23 lost behind a coalition of environmental groups, clean-tech companies, Silicon Valley venture capitalists and hedge fund managers who all had a stake in seeing the statewide climate law, A.B. 32, continue its march toward implementation in 2012. The same coalition helped to elect Brown over Whitman, a former CEO of eBay Inc. who promised on the campaign trail to delay A.B. 32 for one year if elected.
Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund, said the Prop 23 defeat sends “a big signal” to the rest of the country and the world that Californians stand firmly behind the law, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020. He called the level of cooperation between the fledgling clean-tech sector and environmental groups unprecedented, giving the “No on 23” campaign the street muscle and the money it needed to prevail.
“This is the largest referendum anywhere on the planet where people have directly voted on clean energy and climate policy,” Krupp said in an interview. “It’s the largest state in the country sending a clear message that they want a clean energy economy and clean energy jobs.”
The crucial flaw for “Yes on 23” appeared to have been its direct connection to two Texas-based refining companies, Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., which spearheaded the effort and easily led in contributions with multimillion-dollar donations. The “No on 23” campaign strategy from the outset sought to paint the measure as the product of “dirty energy companies” from Texas, and the message appeared to stick with voters.
Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that in her 30 years of work as an environmental advocate she had never seen a coalition come together so forcefully. The message appeared to be so resonant that bigger oil companies — including San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron Corp., one of the biggest polluters in the state — stayed out of the fight and never came to the financial defense of the Texas refiners.