October 31, 2008 / 10:48 PM / 9 years ago

California "green" energy vote seen close: poll

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Opponents have taken a small lead in the latest poll on a California ballot measure that calls for half the state’s electricity to be generated by renewable sources by 2025, a Field Poll issued on Friday shows.

The poll showed support for California Proposition 7 slipping to 39 percent from 63 percent in July. The latest poll showed 43 percent opposed Prop 7, up from 24 percent in July. Eighteen and that 18 percent were undecided.

In the July poll, 82 percent of those asked said they were not aware of Prop 7, and by late October, still 35 percent of those polled said they had not heard of the initiative, the Field Poll showed.

Supporters say that the measure will create 370,000 jobs in California and make California far-and-away the world leader on renewable energy.

Opponents, which include every major environmental group in the state as well as the state’s three investor-owned utilities an unlikely alliance, say Prop 7 is well-intentioned but ill-conceived and would constrict rather than expand renewable power.

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst said that if Prop 7 passes, it would increase annual administrative fees to the state by $3.4 million.

The Monterey County Herald summed up the case against Prop. 7: “Filled with unintended consequences. Would put some green energy suppliers out of business.”

It is one of 50 newspapers in the state that have urged a “no” vote.

One of the few supporters of Prop 7 in the environmental community is Donald Aitken, who used to be with the Union of Concerned Scientists, which opposes Prop 7.

He says the notion that small renewable power providers would be cut out if Prop 7 passes is “the stuff of urban legend. The ones who oppose it should read the initiative.”

Aitken points to a study issued two weeks ago by the University of California-Berkeley’s California Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

“On the contrary,” says an analysis of Prop 7 by Berkeley Law’s Steven Weissman, “courts would probably interpret it as permitting all renewable energy firms to participate, no matter their size. But the initiative’s language is ambiguous, leaving it open to legal challenges.”

Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers Association, agreed that the issue of whether small providers would be cut out is not clear.

A bigger issue, and the reason that he and other attorneys who have pored over the details of Prop 7 reject it is “structural problems with how the proposition is written. There are some drafting errors that raise legal questions and it is what has driven the entire renewable power industry against it.”

Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Richard Chang

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