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Unusual Alliance Opposes Prop. 7

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

California Proposition 7 on the November ballot is intended to reduce greenhouse gases. The measure would require utilities to use more wind, solar and other renewable resources to generate electricity.  KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce says Prop. 7 would give California the nation's most aggressive renewable-energy mandate.

Prop. 7 is opposed by a coalition of the state's public utilities and environmental groups.

Virtually every major environmental group is against the measure, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund.  

Prop. 7 supporter S. David Freeman is an energy policy expert who doesn't understand environmentalist opposition.

Freeman:
This initiative would require the utilities to add two-percentage points to their renewable portfolio each year which they're not doing now. And it would fine them if they didn't do it. And it would bring the municipal utilities in under the law. They're not even covered by the law and they've got some of the dirtiest fuel in the state: coal!

The measure would require all utilities to generate 40% of their power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2020. The utilities would have to get half of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

California's utilities are having trouble meeting the current mandate to generate 20 percent of power from renewables by 2010.

The state Public Utilities Commission projects California will miss the target by at least three years.

Still, there's what S. David Freeman calls an "unholy alliance" against Prop. 7.

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It's unprecedented. Democrats and Republicans have come together against Proposition 7. Business and labor agree, no on Prop. 7. California's environmental and renewable energy groups all oppose prop. 7.

But Prop. 7 supporter Freeman says new rules are needed because the current mandate is not working.
Freeman:
They have a goal of 20% in 2010 and we're just at 10% now and nobody's been fined and there's no annual requirement.

Andrew McAllister with the California Center for Sustainable Energy says there's already a process in place to move toward a state renewable standard.

He says the goals of Prop. 7 are laudable, but it will cause confusion.

McAllister: Do I agree with the sort of feeling that "yes we want to push things as fast as we can because we have a climate crisis on our hands?" Absolutely. Do I think that this proposition mechanism is the best way to achieve that and get some kind of a consensus about how to move forward? No, I actually don't.

The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to oppose the measure.

The commission says Prop. 7 would establish a rigid, and potentially unworkable structure for the further development of renewable energy in California.

Southern California Edison agrees with the PUC and calls the initiative "misguided," saying it would disrupt existing renewable-energy development and lead to higher utility bills.

The state's largest utilities have raised nearly $24 million to defeat Proposition 7, with most of that coming from Pacific Gas & Electric.

Prop. 7 Robocall: Prop 7 makes all utilities obey all renewable energy laws. That's why PG&E and Southern Cal Edison are spending millions to oppose it. Paid for by yes on proposition 7, Californians for Solar and Clean Energy. Major funding by Peter Sperling and Jim Gonzales.

Peter Sperling is an Arizona billionaire.

He's given more than $7 million to promote Prop. 7.

The Union of Concerned Scientists says the measure is poorly written and could shut out smaller providers of green energy projects such as wind and solar.

Prop. 7 supporter Freeman says that's not true.

Freeman:
That's what the utilities in the unholy alliance between them and some environmentalists are saying. I have read this thing and it does not exempt the small solar.

But the California Solar Energy Industries Association and The California Taxpayers Association both oppose Prop. 7.

California's legislative analyst says state administrative costs will increase up to $3.5 million a year if Prop. 7 passes.

In the short run, the analyst says it's likely higher rates and higher costs will result if the measure is approved...and the long term impact on electricity rates and state and local government costs is uncertain.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

 

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