California’s climate culture war heats up
Saying Californians disagree about the state’s approach to climate change might be a bit of an understatement.
Today, for example, California’s air regulators are set to hold the first of two hearings on a controversial, far-reaching proposal that would ban the sale of new gas-powered big rigs and other trucks in the state by 2040 and require trucking companies to convert their existing fleets to zero-emissions vehicles.
The trucking industry opposes the proposed regulations, which it says are “not realistic” and are “pushing for too much, too fast,” as Chris Shimoda, senior vice president of government affairs for the California Trucking Industry, put it in a Wednesday CalMatters commentary.
On the other hand, environmental justice advocates are set today to hold a “rally to fight diesel death” outside the California Environmental Protection Agency to urge air regulators to go both faster and further. Their demands: a goal of 100% electric car sales by 2036 and accelerated pollution cuts from certain big rigs.
The divide over California climate policy was also highlighted in a poll released late Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California, which found that Proposition 30 — a November ballot measure to hike taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents to fund electric vehicle programs and wildfire prevention efforts — is underwater with likely voters, with 52% opposed, 41% in favor and 7% undecided. (The margin of error on the sample of 1,111 likely voters is plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.)
- Prop. 30 has been steadily falling in voters’ esteem: 55% of likely voters said they supported it and 40% said they opposed it in a September PPIC survey. But after Gov. Gavin Newsom started airing ads broadcasting his opposition to the measure — putting him at odds with the California Democratic Party and aligning him with the state GOP — a poll released in early October from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that just 49% of voters supported it and 39% were opposed.
- Rusty Hicks, chairperson of the California Democratic Party, said in a statement: “The fight against climate change is absolutely worthy of a dedicated funding stream to make the investments needed to save the planet, and that’s why the California Democratic Party strongly supports Prop. 30.”
Exactly how much money would Prop. 30 raise every year, and where exactly would those dollars go? How many Californians would pay higher taxes? Who is funding the campaigns for and against the measure, and how much have they raised? And how much money are the state and federal governments already spending on electric vehicles and wildfire prevention?
- CalMatters’ Ben Christopher, Julie Cart, Nadia Lopez and Jeremia Kimelman answer all of those questions and more in a comprehensive explainer breaking down the 15 key numbers you need to know to understand Prop. 30 and help you decide how to vote.
Speaking of wildfires, Newsom on Wednesday requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to help cover state, local and tribal recovery costs from wildfires exacerbated by an extreme late-summer heat wave.
Wildfires also cast a metaphorical haze over a Wednesday report from the California Air Resources Board that found the Golden State’s carbon dioxide emissions fell by nearly 9% in 2020 — the largest single-year drop ever recorded — as millions of residents stayed home during the pandemic. Because of those unique circumstances, 2020 “cannot be used as a reliable data point” to predict future trends, the board’s executive officer, Dr. Steven Cliff, said in a statement.
Nor does the data account for emissions from wildfires. Research published last week found that wildfires in 2020 — California’s worst wildfire year on record — emitted more than double the greenhouse gases slashed by the state from 2003 to 2019.
Time to vote: Find out everything you need to know about voting before California’s election ends Nov. 8 in the CalMatters Voter Guide, which includes information on races, candidates and propositions, as well as videos, interactives and campaign finance data. And if you missed CalMatters’ event last week on the seven ballot measures, you can watch it here and read a brief recap here.
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1 Newsom weighs in on sports betting measure
Newsom unveiled his opposition to Prop. 27 — which would legalize online sports betting — on Wednesday, less than two weeks before Election Day: “Proposition 27 is bad for California,” the governor said in a statement. “It would hurt California’s Indian Tribes, increase the risks of underage gambling, and push billions of dollars out of California and into the pockets of out-of-state corporations.” The governor is not expected to take a formal stance on Prop. 26, which would authorize in-person sports betting at Native American casinos and horse race tracks.
In any case, most Californians already seem to have made up their minds on the dueling sports betting measures: A whopping 67% of likely voters oppose Prop. 27, with just 26% in favor, according to the PPIC survey released Wednesday night. Things aren’t looking much better for Prop. 26, with 57% of likely voters in opposition compared to just 34% who support it. That marks a sharp decline for both measures from a UC Berkeley poll released earlier this month.
As for Newsom himself, the PPIC poll found that 55% of likely voters plan to support his gubernatorial reelection bid, while 36% plan to cast a vote for his opponent, Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle. A similar share of likely voters — 54% — approve of how Newsom is handling his job. Interestingly, the governor enjoys the support of half or more Democrats across all regions of the state — except in the Central Valley (42%), the most fiercely contested political turf in California.
Latest coverage of the 2022 general election in California
2 Albertsons, Kroger under state scrutiny for merger, payout
To ensure that grocery shoppers don’t see higher prices, workers don’t end up with suppressed wages and low-income areas don’t lose essential local grocery stores, Albertsons should delay a scheduled $4 billion stockholder payout until government authorities fully review its proposed merger with Kroger, Attorney General Rob Bonta and five other attorneys general wrote in a Wednesday letter to the two grocery giants. The attorneys general noted that Albertsons and Kroger together own nearly 5,000 stores (including Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Ralphs and Food 4 Less in California) and employ more than 700,000 workers. “If the proposed merger has anticompetitive effects, nearly every corner of this country will feel them” when inflation has already caused grocery prices to skyrocket 12.2% in the last year, the prosecutors wrote. (In the Wednesday PPIC survey, 43% of likely voters said they and their family are worse off financially than they were a year ago.)
- Unionized grocery store workers in California applauded the move: “That $4 billion could be much better spent to lower prices of food for consumers facing unprecedented levels of inflation, pay workers more or invest in safer stores for workers and customers,” Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, said in a statement.
- Albertsons told the Los Angeles Times: “Our planned combination with Kroger will provide significant benefits to consumers, associates and communities and offers a compelling alternative to larger and nonunion competitors.”
Also Wednesday, McDonald’s workers from California and across the country protested CEO Chris Kempzcinski for his company’s financial support of a proposed referendum to overturn a new law creating a state council to regulate wages and working conditions in the fast food industry.
3 Will California pursue student vaccine mandate again?
California lawmakers don’t seem likely to revive their failed push to mandate students be inoculated against COVID-19 in order to attend school, even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination advisors voted last week to recommend all children get the vaccine, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.
- Assemblymember Akilah Weber, a San Diego Democrat involved in legislative Democrats’ vaccine work group: “At this time, I’m not involved in any legislation that would mandate vaccinations, but I’m actively involved in education and outreach to encourage and provide community access for more parents to have their children vaccinated.”
Nevertheless, some Republicans are warning that Democrats will continue to pursue a youth vaccination mandate. “The stakes in the midterm elections are now even higher,” GOP Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin, who’s running for a hotly contested congressional seat, wrote in a blog post after the CDC recommendation. “In other words, whether we have a child vaccine mandate for COVID depends on who holds political power after November.”
The flip side of fallowing: California can both achieve its long-term clean energy goals and invest in struggling San Joaquin Valley communities by expanding solar development on fallowed farmland, write Andrew Ayres of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center and Darcy Wheeles of ArkSpring Consulting.
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