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California Investors Fight Proposition 23

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Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to spend freely in political arenas, many shareholders of those corporations aren’t happy. Among those companies are a number of investors in Valero Energy Corp., Tesoro Corp. and Occidental Petroleum, which have all spent large amounts of cash to help pass California’s Proposition 23. The measure is meant to overturn California’s landmark clean energy law, AB 32, which mandates a reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

Not only are those shareholders not taking it lying down, they’ve gone public in a big way.

On Tuesday, 68 investors representing over $400 billion — asset managers, venture capitalists and others — signed a joint statement opposing Proposition 23 as harmful to California jobs and investment, as well as the health of people in California and elsewhere.

Shareholders filed shareholder resolutions with the aforementioned energy companies, and some of the people concerned came together on a conference call with the media to discuss their opposition to the stance the energy companies had taken. The shareholders also said they felt Proposition 23 would endanger not just the environment, but jobs in the state of California and investment there and in other regions. Alan Salzman, CEO and managing partner of California-based VantagePoint Venture Partners; Kevin Parker and Bruce Kahn of Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors; and Chris Davis, director of the CERES investor programs, spoke about their concerns on behalf of investors and then took part in a Q&A.

The speakers on the call, hosted by CERES, a coalition of investors and environmental groups, expressed concern that passage of the measure would create a riskier environment for investment in clean tech and alternative fuels.  They were also concerned it would slow or halt the development of jobs in the green sector, and more broadly, have a ripple effect on the rest of the country and cause the U.S. to be outpaced by other countries that are more supportive of pursuing a unified clean energy and clean technology strategy.

Some of the concerns cited by the group in a statement, as well as on the call, were these:

  • Job Growth: “In an extremely difficult economy during which the state has lost 1% of its jobs, clean technology has been one of California’s key growth industries, increasing jobs at a rate of 5% from 2007 to 2008. Other studies show that California green jobs have grown 10 times faster than the statewide average.”
  • Private Investment: “Nine billion dollars have been invested in the development of clean technology in California since enactment of AB32 (the bipartisan clean energy law targeted by Prop. 23) in 2006. Without AB32, billions of dollars in additional investment would be lost to other states and nations.”
  • Energy Price Savings and Stability: “Through its energy efficiency measures, AB32 lowers electricity costs by lowering energy demand, saving money for consumers and the state of California….AB32 also lowers the price of clean energy by encouraging investments that will increase the clean energy supply.  This ensures that we lock in lower prices for fossil fuel alternatives now, keeping energy prices stable over the long-term.”
  • Air Pollution and Public Health: “Each year, according to the American Lung Association, California’s air pollution contributes to thousands of premature deaths, 9,400 hospitalizations, and more than 300,000 respiratory illnesses for California families.  Prop. 23 would lead to increased air pollution and the associated public health risks, as well as the economic costs that go along with them.”


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