Maintaining Standards

Oil Companies Present a False Choice with Their Prop 23

Warning: Proposition 23 is hazardous to your health and to California’s economy.

In 2006, California passed AB 32, a law that holds polluters accountable and requires them to reduce air pollution that threatens our health and contributes to global climate change. Since then, California has been the leader of the clean technology industry, with clean energy businesses that are creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs in our state.

Now, two Texas oil companies that are among the top ten polluters in California – Valero and Tesoro – are spending millions of dollars on Proposition 23 to ensure that polluters can avoid California’s clean energy standards. If they succeed they will undermine California’s air pollution reduction standards and pull the plug on one of the few bright spots in this state’s recovering economy. Don’t be fooled by their deceptive campaign. Proposition 23 lets polluters off the hook for reducing their harmful pollution and results in increased air pollution.

California residents cannot afford any increase in air pollution. Although we have made great improvements over the last few decades, California still confronts some of the worst air pollution in the U.S. Over 91 percent of us live in counties – including Ventura County and Santa Barbara County – assigned failing air quality grades by the American Lung Association. Numerous studies and reports link air pollution exposure to hospitalizations for asthma, as well as illness and premature death from emphysema, lung cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke. Already vulnerable populations, including seniors with health problems and Latinos and African Americans who are more likely to live and work in toxic environments, will be at the front line of the negative impacts.

Prop 23 would roll back the state’s work to reduce emissions that not only cause pollution but also contribute to global climate change. California is tremendously vulnerable to climate change impacts. If we are unable to curb greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect to see dramatic increases in wildfires, extreme weather events, flooding, and drought.

Proposition 23 is bad for business innovation and our economy. California’s AB 32 puts our state in a unique position to dominate the clean technology market and continue to grow green businesses and green jobs. Since 2005, California green jobs have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average. Clean air and emission reduction requirements from AB 32 will create quality jobs that span the workforce – manufacturing, construction, utility workers, electricians, pipe trades, carpenters, laborers, engineers, environmental scientists and many others. According to the non-partisan State Legislative Analyst, the suspension of AB 32 by Proposition 23 could “dampen additional investments in clean energy technologies or in so-called ‘green jobs’ by private firms, thereby resulting in less economic activity than would otherwise be the case.” (Emphasis added.) Low-income communities that already have fewer economic opportunities will suffer more under Proposition 23. The Texas oil companies cite several studies by a Sacramento professor that project economic peril from AB 32, but these studies have been debunked by independent economists and analysts including the non-partisan State Legislative Analyst’s office.

Proposition 23 creates the real peril for California. This is why we are seeing a broad coalition of businesses, public health advocates, social justice groups, and environmental organizations all join in opposition to it. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents oppose Proposition 23. Governor Schwarzenegger opposes Proposition 23. Others opposed include: American Lung Association in California, American Association of Retired People, California Labor Federation, California Conference of Carpenters, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Solar Energy Industries Association, California Professional Firefighters, California League of Women Voters, California League of Conservation Voters, and many others. (For a complete list, you can visit

Don’t be deceived into thinking you have to make a choice between economic profit and controlling pollution. In California we have been doing both for a long time. Vote no on 23.

- Maricela Morales is the Associate Executive Director of the Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).

- Karen Kraus is an attorney with the Environmental Defense Center.

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