Five Western States Will Vote on Energy Questions on November Ballots


Five western states have initiatives or referendums on energy issues. They include increasing renewable energy mandates, instituting a carbon tax, restricting oil and gas production, and repealing a gas tax increase. Here is a brief summary of each with links to recent news stories.
In California, Proposition 6 asks voters to repeal the increase in gas taxes passed by supermajorities in the legislature. The initiative trails in the latest poll, 39% to 52%. Gas prices in California are regularly the highest in the lower 48 states and are currently near $4 a gallon. The sponsors this week announced a second initiative that they hope to qualify for the 2020 ballot that would pay for repairs to California’s crumbling highways by devoting all of the gas tax revenues to highway maintenance (mass transit currently gets a big share) and by cancelling the $77 billion bullet train to nowhere. 
In Washington, voters are being asked a second time to approve a carbon tax, which is being called a “carbon-pollution fee.” Initiative 1631 would start at $15 per ton of CO2 (which would add 14 cents to a gallon of gasoline) and increase $2 each year plus inflation. It was reported this week that carbon tax opponents have raised $20.46 million, mostly from oil companies. The biggest contributor was Phillips 66 at $7.2 million.       
In Arizona, passage of Proposition 127 would amend the state constitution to require utilities to produce 50% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The organization promoting the initiative, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, is being funded with millions of dollars from Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action. However, earlier this year the legislature passed and Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation that will allow utilities to escape the “50 by 30” requirement by paying small fines.
In Nevada, Tom Steyer is backing Question 6, which would also require that utilities produce 50% of their electricity from renewables by 2050. There is little organized opposition, and the initiative is expected to pass easily. 
In Colorado, Proposition 112 would require larger setbacks from property lines for new oil and gas wells. It is estimated that the 2500-foot setbacks would put 54% of Colorado’s total land mass and 85% of Colorado’s private land off limits to oil and gas production. The law currently requires 500-foot setbacks. The oil and gas industry is making a major effort to defeat the referendum.