5 Big Wins, 2 Big Losses on Key Eco-Ballot Initiatives
Key environmentally-related ballot measures in six states received mixed results yesterday.
On the plus side, Florida voters saw through utility industry efforts to thwart the state's burgeoning solar energy business and California voters appeared to affirm the state's ban on single-use plastic bags. Both Massachusetts and Oregon passed key animal protection laws.
But, two historically significant measures didn't fare as well. An energy and big business-backed state constitutional amendment passed in Colorado, while a controversial carbon tax initiative in Washington went down to defeat.
1. FLORIDA: Florida's utility-backed Amendment 1, disguised as a pro-solar bill, failed to reach the 60 percent yes vote needed to become law.
"Florida voters weren't fooled by the misleading campaign that the utilities tried to perpetrate," Tania Galloni, Earthjustice managing attorney for Florida, said.
A hard-fought grassroots campaign worked to educate voters on the deceptive nature of the proposed amendment to the Florida constitution. The amendment would have allowed utility companies to charge fees to solar customers and make it more difficult for private solar companies to work with homeowners.
Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told the Miami Herald, "We defeated one of the most egregious and underhanded attempts at voter manipulation in this state's history."
2. WASHINGTON: Voters rejected Initiative 732, which would have created the nation's first tax on carbon. The proposal would have set a price of $25 per metric ton starting in 2018, increasing to $100 over the next 40 years. The measure was opposed not only by the Koch brothers, but also by the Sierra Club.
However, as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said days before the election, "By making Washington the premier American government to place a price on carbon, Evergreen voters will pioneer the trail away from our deadly carbon addiction and its murderous offspring: climate chaos."
3. COLORADO: Amendment 71, supported by the oil and gas industry, won approval in Colorado. Now, the state constitutional amendment makes it extremely difficult to get citizen initiatives on the ballot, essentially ceding control to big-money backers. An attempt to get an anti-fracking amendment on the ballot sparked the oil and gas industry to spend big on Amendment 71.
A group funded by Anadarko and Noble Energy donated at least $1 million to support passage. Other big backers included the Colorado Gaming Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers and the Colorado Association of Realtors.
4. CALIFORNIA: Two propositions affecting the use of plastic bags were on the state ballot this year. As of this morning, Proposition 67, which would keep the legislatively-enacted statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, appears to be winning. Proposition 65, which was an industry-backed effort to create an ill-defined environmental fund supported by the 10-cent bag fee, was defeated.
5. MASSACHUSETTS: Voters enacted a landmark law that will protect farm animals from extreme confinement. By 2022, the measure will prohibit the use of veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs and so-called battery cages for egg-laying hens. All three confine animals to spaces so small they can't turn around or spread their wings, in the case of hens, and are inhumane.
The newly-passed Massachusetts law also makes it illegal to sell meat or eggs from animals kept in these conditions, including from those farmed outside the state.
6. OREGON: Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 100 by a 70-to-30 margin, which prohibits the sale of animal parts and products from 12 species, including rhino, cheetah, tiger, sea turtle, lion, elephant, whale, shark, pangolin, jaguar, ray, and leopard.
More than 150,000 signatures were gathered to put the measure on the ballot.
"Oregon has a long and proud history of supporting wildlife conservation. With this sweeping victory, Oregon has set an important example for the rest of the nation and joins efforts around the world to protect imperiled animals, such as elephants, whales and sea turtles," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States.
The move comes after regional authorities declared a state of emergency over the weekend after sightings of more than 50 bears in the town of Belushya Guba since December.
This year's letter from Bill and Melinda Gates focused on nine things that surprised them. For the Microsoft-cofounder, one thing he was surprised to learn was the massive amount of new buildings the planet should expect in the coming decades due to urban population growth.
"The number of buildings in the world is going to double by 2060. It's like we're going to build a new New York City every month for the next 40 years," he said.
By Shana Udvardy
After a dearth of action on climate change and a record year of extreme events in 2017, the inclusion of climate change policies within the annual legislation Congress considers to outline its defense spending priorities (the National Defense Authorization Act) for fiscal year 2018 was welcome progress. House and Senate leaders pushed to include language that mandated that the Department of Defense (DoD) incorporate climate change in their facility planning (see more on what this section of the bill does here and here) as well as issue a report on the impacts of climate change on military installations. Unfortunately, what DoD produced fell far short of what was mandated.
Trump is losing his rallying cry to save coal. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) voted on Thursday to retire two coal-fired power plants in the next few years despite a plea from the president to keep one of the plants open.
Earlier this week, the president posted an oddly specific tweet that urged the government-owned utility to save the 49-year-old Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky. It so happens that the facility burns coal supplied by Murray Energy Corporation, whose CEO is Robert Murray, is a major Trump donor.