Holding Dirty Energy Responsible: Voting No on Prop 23 and Prop 26

Prop 23 represents several Texas Oil Companies’ scheme to repeal California’s Clean Energy and Air Pollution standards. Besides jeopardizing 500,000 green jobs, Prop 23 will lead to increased air pollution having debilitating effects on the health and wallets of California citizens. The big oil companies supporting Prop 23 live in Texas- no wonder they aren’t concerned with the health implications associated with Prop 23. In fact, they are so unconcerned about CA’s air pollution problem that time and time again they have violated CA state air pollution laws. These violations include illegally releasing known hazardous pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere (www.camajorityreport.com).

Opponents of Prop 23 include CA’s Major Health and Medical Organization, the American Lung Association, CA Nurses Association, Kaiser Permanente, and many CA hospitals and public health advocates. Unlike Texas oil, these organizations are aware and concerned about the impacts of air pollution and know that Prop 23 will only increase these impacts. 91% of Californians live in counties that were assigned failing air quality grades by the American Lung Association 2010 State of the Air Report, thus air pollution represents a statewide issue.

And air pollution isn’t just a matter of unsightly smog. It represents a serious health concern, causing 19,000 premature deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks, and thousands of trips to hospitals each year, according to a recent study by RAND. Air pollution is especially harmful to children who suffer from stunted lung growth, asthma, and increased respiratory infections as a direct result of exposure to air pollution.

Denise Mann, Health Magazine

These detrimental health effects also lead to increased costs for CA. The Public Health costs associated with air pollution in Los Angeles alone equal $22 billion dollars. Hospital costs associated with illnesses linked to air pollution exposure cost Californian’s another $193 million dollars annually in direct healthcare fees (http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR777/).  There is also the increased pressure to over-burdened hospitals and emergency rooms as well as millions of dollars lost due to decreased productivity when individuals are forced to miss work from air pollution related illnesses.

Who pays for the burden of these health problems caused by CA’s poor air quality? We all do… RAND recently completed an extensive study finding that the burden ends up falling on private insurers, employers, and public programs like Medicare. In turn, this leads to increased health insurance premiums which lead to increased costs for individuals and employers. And just because your employer is paying your premium doesn’t mean you are off the hook- increased premiums have been linked to decreased wages…so one way or another we will all pay either with our health or with our wallets for Prop 23 and increased air pollution.

Who should be paying for these detrimental implications of increased air pollution? The polluters. Unfortunately these same polluters have come up with Prop 26 to ensure that they never have to suffer the consequences of their actions. Oil companies are tricky beasts.  If Prop 23 were to fail, Prop 26 would ensure those polluters and other companies who impact public health would not be held liable for the damage that they cause.  Proposition 26 would redefine regulatory fees imposed on companies for harm done to the environment or public health as taxes. Since taxes, unlike fees, require a two-thirds vote for approval, it would be much harder for state and local governments to seek such payments from those making harmful products or creating public nuisances.   So… oil companies and other big polluters still wouldn’t have to worry about being held responsible for polluting our health and our environment.  Companies funding Prop 26 include Exxon, Chevron and Phillip Morris.   It is opposed by the League of Women Voters, Nurses, Firefighters, and the Sierra Club to name a few…

Make sure that you don’t fall victim to Big Oil’s tricky ways and you will be protecting your wallet and health…by voting no on Prop 23 and Prop 26 November 2nd! And check out www.stopprop26.com and www.stopdirtyenergyprop.com for more information and to help the campaign efforts.