President-elect Trump should heed these state mandates

President-elect Trump should heed these state mandates

A voting booth in Switzerland
ShutterstockStefano Ember
A voting booth in Switzerland.

The nation that divided Tuesday to choose Republican Donald J. Trump as its next President-elect — despite conferring the popular vote on his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton — sent mixed signals about key climate-related measures on Tuesday’s ballots.

For starters, two closely watched proposals from two very different parts of the country were defeated.

Washington state’s first-of-its-kind proposed carbon tax, a.k.a. Initiative 732, would have collected a fee of $15 per metric ton on carbon dioxide emissions. Under the proposal, the revenue would have been used to reduce the sales tax by 1 percent, to help low-income families, and to cut some business taxes. As of the latest vote tally, however, close to 60 percent of voters were in favor of rejecting the measure.

The initiative was criticized from both sides of the aisles, and many believe that this isn’t the last we’ll hear on this topic.

"Initiative 732 rightfully aimed to put a price on carbon, but unjustly favored tax cuts for corporations over investments in clean energy and green job creation for struggling families and displaced workers," noted Vien Truong, director of Green For All, in a statement. "This defeat shows that Washingtonians recognized that I-732 is a false solution.

"With Congress set up for gridlock once again, states will continue playing a leading role in fighting climate change. The fight against climate change isn’t just a fight against ecological disaster. It is also about fighting for a better future, one that invests in green jobs, clean technology, and prioritizes communities hit first and worst by fossil fuel pollution and climate change."

Voters in Florida beat back what many viewed as an anti-solar amendment, described by some as the most expensive ballot measure in the state’s history because of the $26 million spent by utilities to squash it. On the face of it, the measure seemed to be pro-solar because of its wording but the concern among critics was that it would have limited the right of individuals to own or lease solar panels on their own.

"Solar is tremendously popular across state and party lines, and today’s rejection of Florida’s anti-solar ballot measure is a reminder of that," said Scott Thomasson, director of new markets at Vote Solar, in a statement. "Florida voters were armed with the truth behind Amendment 1, and for the second time this year, they cast their ballots for solar progress, customer choice and local jobs."

Thomasson’s comment about the "second time" refers to Florida voters’ support in August for Amendment 4, which exempts solar systems sited commercial and industrial properties from real estate taxes.

Florida’s resolve is in lockstep from the growing number of U.S. adults who favor supporting expansions of solar and wind generating capacity. For example, close to 90 percent of those surveyed last summer by Pew Research Center are in favor of more solar farms, while less than 10 percent oppose this idea. Wind had slightly less support.

In contrast, 57 percent of those surveyed opposed coal mining, compared with the 41 percent who support it. Opinions about fracking, nuclear power and oil drilling were roughly comparable. 

Key pro-climate 'statements' by California and Nevada

 California’s Monterey County joined the neighboring counties of Santa Cruz and San Benito in banning fracking or any new oil wells. That makes it the seventh county in the state. It came despite the region’s significant dependence on revenue from that industry, and heavy lobbying by the likes of Chevron and Aera Energy in an effort to kill the idea.

"Fracking opponents expect this victory to mark a turning point in California state and national efforts to protect water, land and the climate from destructive oil operations," supporters declared on their web site.

California voters also decided to uphold a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags; as of the latest tally, about 52 percent were in favor of keeping this policy versus the 48 percent who wanted to scrap it.

In Nevada, voters passed a proposal that will give consumers and businesses far more choice about where they can buy electricity — basically putting an end to the monopoly enjoyed by NV Energy and creating a more open market for other providers.

The measure was supported by the likes of Tesla, which is building its huge "gigafactory" in the state to support its energy storage business, and many of the Las Vegas casino companies that are investing in clean power alternatives, such as MGM Resorts.

"To continue advancing our nation’s clean energy revolution, we must repel the negative forces seeking to undermine Americans’ freedom to choose clean energy," wrote U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, in an editorial last weekend expressing support for the measure. "These enemies of progress are shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their personal empires at the expense of American consumers and businesses. We need to resist the partisan, big money interests from interfering with our future and energy independence."