With United States mid-term elections just 33 days (and 14 hours, 55 minutes) away, citizens across 24 mostly western states have launched 64 separate ballot initiatives to push back on the Trump administration’s determination to gut greenhouse gas regulations and prop up the country’s fossil fuel industries.
“With the GOP controlling the executive branch and Congress, that means state-level ballot initiatives are one of the few tools progressives have left to advance their own energy agendas,” High Country News reports, in a post republished by Grist. Many of this year’s “direct democracy” initiatives “aim to encourage renewable energy development—and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”
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HCN profiles the ballot campaigns in four states:
- In Arizona, a new Renewable Energy Standards Initiative would require utilities to produce 50% of their electricity from wind and solar by 2030. “The parent company of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest utility, tried to sabotage the initiative with a lawsuit arguing that over 300,000 petition signatures were invalid and that the petition language may have confused signers into thinking the mandate includes nuclear energy,” notes reporter Jessica Kutz. “APS gets most of its energy from the Palo Verde nuclear plant, and the initiative could hurt its revenue.”
- In Colorado, the Safer Setbacks for Fracking Initiative would ban new oil and gas wells or production facilities within 2,500 feet of schools, houses, playgrounds, parks, and drinking water sources. In response, the state Farm Bureau put forward an amendment that would allow farmers, ranchers, or other citizens to file claims if they lose revenue due to a government action.
- In Nevada, the Renewable Energy Promotion Initiative would set the same 50% by 2030 target envisioned in the Arizona initiative, while a separate Energy Choice Initiative would amend the state constitution to allow consumer to decide where they buy their electricity. The proposed constitutional measure “is spearheaded by big energy consumers, including Switch, a large data company, and luxury resort developer Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which want the freedom to buy cheaper power on the open market without penalty,” Kutz notes.
NV Energy, the regulated monopoly that supplies 90% of the state’s electricity, has said it would abandon some of the solar projects it currently has on the drawing boards if the initiative passed. The U.S. Sierra Club, Western Resource Advocates, and other environmental groups see the measure as a threat to clean energy development.
- Washington is repeating an initiative that will make it the first U.S. state to adopt a carbon fee if voters approve it. A similar measure failed in 2016 by nearly 10 percentage points, Kutz recalls, but “many former opponents are now supporters”.
This time around, the new fee would pay for initiatives to promote clean energy or help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, rather than being offset by a sales tax cut. So environmental groups support it, while the fossil lobby is running a campaign to defeat it, with colossal fossil Phillips 66 kicking in US$7.2 million so far.
HCN reports that California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action has contributed more than $8 million to the 50% by 2030 initiatives in Arizona and Nevada.