California Watch
A Project of the Center for Investigative Reporting

October 20, 2010 | Susanne Rust

Once again the nation is watching a California environmental law, waiting to see if the vote on Proposition 23 sets the tone for other states, and the federal government, on how to wrestle with the implications and economics of climate change.

So far, voters here are skeptical about making changes. According to a poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California last night, if the election were held today, California’s anti-global warming legislation, AB 32, would remain intact.

The poll shows 48 percent of likely voters oppose Proposition 23, which would suspend the climate law until unemployment falls below 5.5 percent for a full year. About 37 percent support the initiative while another 15 percent said they weren’t sure.

“The old liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat, economy versus environment arguments no longer apply after this fight,” said Steven Maviglio, a spokesman for a campaign that opposes Proposition 23. If the initiative fails, he added, “those divisions should start breaking down nationally as well.”

The margin between those who support and oppose the ballot initiative has increased since September, when the two sides were in a dead heat with 42 percent opposed and 43 percent in support.

So what happened?

“People are becoming increasingly familiar with the initiative, who the supporters and opponents are, and what’s behind it,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the policy institute.

Opposition to Proposition 23 has grown among Democrats and independents since they were last polled while Republicans have steadily favored the initiative.

Most of the money flowing into the Yes on Proposition 23 campaign is coming from oil and gas companies. In just the past week, the campaign has received $167,000, with $150,000 coming from CVR Energy Inc., a Texas-based oil and gas refiner.

“Californians are seeing Prop. 23 for what it is: a deceptive measure financed by Texas oil companies to kill California’s clean air and energy standards,” said Maviglio, the spokesman for the No on 23 campaign. “Valero is the new Enron.”

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