Voters Speak Up on Energy, Environmental Issues

Tuesday saw the re-election of President Barack Obama, Democrats boosting their numbers in the U.S. Senate, and Republicans retaining their majority in the House. Voters in several states also cast ballots to decide a variety of environmental and energy issues at state and local levels. The results included rejection of a proposed raising of Michigan’s renewable energy standard (RES) to 25% by 2020 and passage of closing a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations in California to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

Michigan Rejects RES by 2-1 Margin

In Michigan, voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would increase the amount of power state utilities must obtain from renewable sources by 2020 to 25%. Michigan in 2008 adopted a law that already requires utilities to source 10% of their power from renewables by 2015. The initiative would have allowed utilities to raise electricity rates by no more than 1% to meet the higher renewable energy standard.

The measure was fiercely opposed by groups that reportedly outspent proponents by pouring $35 million into their campaign to block the proposal. Opponents of the measure were led by the CARE Coalition, funded largely by the parent companies of the state’s two large utilities, Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison. Proponents included state and national environmental groups, renewable energy trade groups, and unions, which argued the measure would create more than $10 billion in new investments and thousands of jobs.

California Votes to End Tax Break to Fund Clean Energy

In California, 60% of voters approved Proposition 39, a measure that will require out-of-state businesses to calculate their California income tax liability based on the percentage of their sales in California. The measure also dedicates $550 million annually for five years from the initiative’s anticipated increase in revenue in order to fund projects that "create energy efficiency and clean energy jobs" in California. Initially, this extra revenue will go to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The measure was supported by several California-based companies, including Disney, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Amgen, as well as by business groups such as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. It is expected to raise $1 billion a year.

Sources: POWERnews
—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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