Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Prop 26: Chevron-backed initiative can create hurdles for AB 32

Most environmentalists already know that Prop 23, the ballot initiative that would put brakes on California’s landmark climate change law (AB 32), is backed by two Texas oil companies, Valero and Tesoro. Those who’ve dug a little further may even know that, somewhat surprisingly, Calif.-headquartered Chevron’s sat out of the Prop 23 fight, going so far as to tell the Bay Citizen that “Prop. 23 should be up the voters.”

But if you thought Chevron was simply staying relatively quiet about its non-stance on Prop 23, think again. Today, the oil company launched a new ad campaign that seeks to distance itself from other dirty energy companies — like say, BP. “Radical Chevron Ad Campaign Highlights Victims,” read the Chevron press release* I got via email today. The release goes on to explain that the campaign shows “Chevron as a ‘real people’ corporation, and admitting to problems that companies usually try to hide.”

*[Update, 11:16 am: Turns out the was a spoof site for Chevron's We Agree site -- Yes, the Yes Men were behind it! Fast Company, which was also fooled by the faux release, has more. I actually thought the spoof site wasn't that "radical" a move for Chevron in the wake of the BP spill, but the real Chevron site uses even less-strong wording -- like "Oil companies should put their profits to good use," not "Oil companies should clean up their messes." I've updated the image to reflect the real Chevron campaign.]

Check out the campaign site — — and you’ll see a very simple site, with bold images declaring that oil companies should clean up their messes, fix the problems they create, and put safety first. At the bottom of the page is a “We Agree. Do You?” sign with this message:

Extracting oil from the Earth is a risky process, and mistakes do happen. It’s easy to pass the blame or ignore the mistakes we’ve made. Instead, we need to face them head on, accept our financial and environmental responsibilities, and fund new technologies to avoid these mistakes in the future.

Will the “radical” ad campaign have former BP customers fueling up at Chevron stations instead? Perhaps — but don’t be fooled that Chevron’s suddenly become an AB 32-embracing green-inspired company. At Grist, RL Miller’s already delved into “the curious case of why Chevron is sitting out Prop 23.” The oil company may not be funding Prop 23, but it is putting some serious dollars behind Prop 26, another ballot initiative decried by environmentalists — albeit a lot less loudly thus far.

What does Prop 26 do? If passed, Prop 26 would expand the definition of a tax to include fees and charges that address “health, environmental, or other societal or economic concerns” — thereby requiring a 2/3 majority for approval, according to the state’s legislative analyst. That means fees and charges intended to help realize AB 32 would become much more difficult to enact. Writes RL Miller:

Proposition 26 is a Polluters Protection Act. Its goal is simple: Whatever Proposition 23 can’t undo openly, Proposition 26 will undermine sneakily. AB 32 will seek to impose fees on polluting businesses; Proposition 26 would require a two-thirds approval (which is virtually impossible in gridlocked California). Californians are enthusiastically mobilizing against Proposition 23, but they need to be equally energized against Proposition 26 and for Proposition 25.

How much has Chevron contributed to Prop 26? By RL Miller’s count on Oct. 6, “Chevron has donated $1,250,000 to pass Proposition 26, compared to the $1,000,000 donated by the Koch brothers to pass Proposition 23.” LAist’s Zach Behrens offers a more comprehensive breakdown of the contributions on both sides of Prop 26 today.

Indeed, as Prop 23 gets outfunded and outfought by environmental and other groups eager to save AB 32, the fight seems to be increasingly turning towards Prop 26, as the LA Times reports today. And rest assured that while Chevron may be staying mum on Prop 23, it’s pumping money behind Prop 26.

What will speak louder to the voters of California: Chevron’s “radical” ad campaign — or its $1.25M to Prop 26?

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