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Energy and climate change have barely received any attention in this election season dominated by the largely issue-less Presidential race. But down the ballot, there are some important races and measures to watch today. Here’s a brief summary.
Washington Carbon Tax
Initiative Measure 732 is probably the biggest energy and environment issue voters will weigh in on directly. It would make Washington the first state in the nation to impose a carbon tax. The tax would start at $15 per ton, rise to $25 by 2018 and then continue climbing slowly to $100. Although carbon taxes are strongly supported by most economists, the initiative has generated strong opposition—including from many environmental groups. Our partners at EarthFix have a lot more about the initiative, and the opposition, here.
Colorado Amendment 71
This is a ballot measure that would make putting measures on the ballot more difficult. It would require signatures from at least 2 percent of voters in all 35 Colorado districts to get a measure on the ballot, and 55 percent of the vote for a ballot measure to pass, instead of a simple majority. What does this have to do with energy and the environment, you ask? The ballot measure is largely funded by oil and gas groups who want to keep any fracking measures off the ballot in the future.
California Fracking Ban
Most people don’t think of California as a major oil producer, but in fact it’s number three in the nation. Monterey, California is hardly the heart of California oil country (that distinction belongs to Bakersfield), but the county does have a significant number of oil wells. Which makes Measure Z arguably the first fracking ban up for a vote in oil and gas country. Measure Z would ban not only fracking, but all new wells. Opponents, including Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell, have outspent proponents 30 to 1.
Florida Solar Amendment
Florida is the sunshine state, and this amendment to the state constitution would give homeowners the right to capture that sun on their property with the help of solar panels. But it’s controversial because it would also enshrine the principle that non-solar customers should not subsidize solar customers. As rooftop solar’s popularity has exploded in recent years, utilities have frequently argued that solar owners aren’t paying their fair share of the costs to maintain the electric grid. The biggest backers of this measure are utilities, including Duke Energy and Florida Light & Power. They have spent more than $20 million advocating for the amendment.
Arizona Corporation Commission
For decades, races for the Corporation Commission were sleepy affairs that didn’t garner much public attention. But with the rise of rooftop solar, they have become knock-down drag-out fights. The Corporation Commission is a 5-person panel that regulates utilities in Arizona. Utilities that want to restrict the growth of rooftop solar and solar companies that want to expand have both poured millions into the race to elect commissioners that will favor their vision of the future in one of the nation’s biggest solar markets.
In many Western states, including Nevada, utilities continue to be regulated monopolies. Question 3 would do away with the monopoly utility structure, instead requiring the Legislature to create an “open, competitive retail electric energy market.” The question needs to pass this year and in 2018 in order for it to take effect. Supporters, including Tesla Motors, have raised $3.4 million for the measure. The measure was put on the ballot after a highly controversial decision by the Nevada Public Utility Commission last year to up fees and lower compensation for rooftop solar customers.
Check back tomorrow for updates on the outcomes of these contests!