Proposition 23: The pollution measure

Juliana D. Norwood | 10/13/2010, 5 p.m.

Proposition 23 is a ballot measure that aims to suspend implementation of air pollution control law--AB 32.

In 2006, the California State Legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger enacted an environmental law, AB 32, (also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) which requires greenhouse gas emissions in the state be cut to the levels that they were in 1990--(approx. 427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) by 2020.

The greenhouse emission level, last recorded in 2008, was approximately 474 MMTCO2e. The process of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the state is slated to begin in 2012.

At the time AB 32 was signed, the unemployment rate in California was 4.8 percent. California's unemployment rate has since increased to more than 12 percent making compliance with the law much less attainable. Small companies may have to lay-off employees in order to comply with the new guidelines of the law.

According to the Office of the Attorney General numerous economic studies predict that complying with AB 32 will cost Californians billions of dollars with massive increases in the price of gasoline, electricity, food, and water, which will significantly affect Californians, many of whom cannot afford to pay the increased prices that could be passed onto them as a result of implementing this legislation.

Specifically, if Proposition 23 is passed, AB 32 is suspended until the unemployment rate in California is 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive calendar quarters. The last time that the unemployment rate in California was below 5.5 percent was in 2007. According to the California Employment Development Department, there have been only three periods since 1976, when unemployment in the state remained below 5.5 percent four or more quarters.

Supporters desire to temporarily suspend the operation and implementation of AB 32 until the state's unemployment rate returns to the levels that existed at the time of its adoption in effort to not put further financial strain on California businesses.

The Black Business Association, and other African American organizations across the state, strongly support Proposition 23. They say by temporarily suspending the state's costly global warming law, Yes on 23 will save small businesses and families from the electricity, gasoline and natural gas cost increases that would occur, if this flawed law were implemented.

Yes on 23 will also save more than a million jobs by keeping energy costs down, say supporters like the California Small Business Association, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business. These groups say, in order to comply with the rules of AB 32, small firms will have to lay off employees.

A recent study also found that Yes on 23 would save the City of Los Angeles nearly $200 million per year.

There are many who oppose the bill, nicknaming it the 'dirty energy proposition.' These people believe that in addition to the potentially harmful effects to the environment (of not implementing the provisions in AB 32, the bill will slow the rise in employment that has been visible in the green jobs sector.