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Arguments and Rebuttals



Argument in Favor of Proposition 80

Five years ago, California was devastated by an electricity crisis.

Enron and other energy traders held Californians hostage, extorting tens of billions of dollars from us. They manipulated the electricity market, driving up wholesale prices 1000%. Californians faced rolling blackouts and untold economic damage.

Audiotapes released by the U.S. Justice Department revealed Enron energy traders boasting of “making buckets of money” by creating power shortages. One trader laughed about “all the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California,” while another ordered a power plant worker to “just go ahead and shut her down.”

California’s failed experiment in electric deregulation cost our people and businesses billions of dollars.

We learned many lessons from that disaster. The state has taken some positive steps to clean up the mess—but not nearly enough. Amazingly, legislation to require sufficient supplies of electricity was vetoed by the Governor last year.

That’s why Proposition 80—the Repeal of Deregulation and Blackout Prevention Act—is on the ballot.

It provides critical reforms to make sure our deregulation nightmare never returns.

It provides the stability necessary to ensure long-term investment in new, clean electricity supplies.

Here’s how Proposition 80 accomplishes these goals:

Lower rates. It requires independent generators and utilities to compete against each other to give ratepayers the best deal on new power plants.

Adequate supplies. It requires all electricity providers to have enough power and reserves to keep the lights on. That simple requirement—critical to ending market manipulation and keeping the system stable—was vetoed last year.

Market stability. It makes sure that utilities know how many customers they will have to serve, so they can make long-term investments in new supplies. Amazingly, deregulation advocates have pushed legislation that would create more uncertainty and destabilize the market.

Regulation. It ensures that all electricity providers are subject to regulation and control, so that traders cannot manipulate the system.

Renewables and energy efficiency. It speeds up the shift to renewable energy, and gives first priority to energy efficiency programs.

Ratepayer protection. It prevents small ratepayers from being forced onto potentially expensive time-of-use rates without their consent—especially important in hot climates.

Proposition 80 was carefully drafted by the state’s foremost consumer advocates and legal experts. It allows for amendments by the Legislature consistent with its purposes, to adjust to changing times.

Proposition 80 is a common-sense measure that achieves a clear goal:

Never again will California be taken to the cleaners by greedy energy traders.

Never again will we be subject to rolling blackouts and skyrocketing electricity prices because of power shortages and market manipulation.

Instead, Proposition 80 means that Californians can look forward to getting the cleanest, greenest energy at the lowest possible prices.

Proposition 80 means that Californians can expect a stable electricity future, with sensible long-term investment in cost-effective energy solutions.

That’s why consumers, seniors, environmentalists, business groups, labor organizations, minority groups, and people from all walks of life support Proposition 80.

ROBERT FINKELSTEIN, Executive Director
The Utility Reform Network (TURN)

RICHARD HOLOBER, Executive Director
Consumer Federation of California

NAN BRASMER, President
California Alliance of Retired Americans

Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 80

Proposition 80 is the wrong way to make energy policy for California. The initiative would lock in renewable energy goals established back in 2002, even though environmental groups and Governor Schwarzenegger have urged that California should set higher targets for renewable energy. The initiative would make it harder for the Legislature to pass a stronger renewable plan in the future.

Proposition 80 is the wrong way for California. Vote NO on Proposition 80.

V. John White, Executive Director
Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies

We agree with Mr. White and believe the proponents’ confusing argument shows just how risky Proposition 80 really is. No one wants to relive the Enron Era. This vote is about the future, not the past.

PROPOSITION 80 IS POORLY WRITTEN, RISKY ENERGY POLICY. IT’S BAD FOR CONSUMERS AND BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. Energy policy is too complex for the initiative process and should be developed through a more comprehensive approach that includes public hearings.

What does Proposition 80 mean to you?

PROPOSITION 80 WON’T PREVENT ANOTHER ENERGY CRISIS OR FUTURE BLACKOUTS. In fact, it could stall investment in new power plants California needs to prevent another energy crisis.

PROPOSITION 80 WON’T LOWER YOUR ELECTRIC BILL AND IT ELIMINATES CUSTOMER CHOICE. Proposition 80 prohibits power consumers like schools and hospitals from buying cheaper and cleaner energy, making needed goods and services more expensive and placing our environment at risk.

Proposition 80 is too risky. Protect consumers and the environment. Vote No on Proposition 80.

LES NELSON, President
California Solar Energy Industries Association

Californians for Reliable Electricity

TONY VALENZUELA, Associate Vice President
Facilities, Development and Operations at
  San Jose State University

Argument Against Proposition 80

Proposition 80 is a high-risk approach that could hurt consumers, the environment and the state’s economy.
This deeply flawed measure will undermine the security of state energy supplies, undercut the availability of affordable electricity and undercut the construction of environmentally-friendly renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal resources.

It will sharply restrict consumer choice about who we buy our electricity from and how much we pay for services. It could well lead us down the road toward another serious energy crisis. That’s because Proposition 80 is the wrong way to make energy policy for California.

Reinventing California’s energy system through the initiative process, without public hearings is too great a risk to take. Instead, this critical issue should be addressed carefully through public hearings that involve all affected parties, including the state Utility and Energy Commissions, consumer groups, and small business associations.

Because Proposition 80 takes away energy choices and price competition, energy cost savings will be limited or lost for many of California’s vital institutions such as community colleges, the University of California and the State University systems, local school districts, hospitals, and city and county governments. Taxpayers, students, teachers, and patients will ultimately pay for these higher energy costs.

PROPOSITION 80 TAKES AWAY THE RIGHT OF CONSUMERS AND BUSINESSES TO CHOOSE AN ENERGY SUPPLIER THAT CAN SAVE MONEY. Just when California needs more jobs and investments in our infrastructure to help our economy, Proposition 80 sends the wrong signal of uncertainty and risk. Proposition 80 takes away an energy choice that often attracts high paying jobs and new investment.

Proposition 80 would make it extremely difficult to improve the State’s standards for generating electricity from renewable sources, which could seriously undermine adoption of wind, solar, and geothermal technologies. Growth of California’s green businesses could be placed at risk.

Electricity regulation is too risky to be addressed through the initiative process. Flaws in this measure will be very difficult or impossible to fix. Proposition 80 is bad policy because it:

  • Restricts energy choices for all consumers, big and small.
  • Limits the market for increasing solar, wind, and geothermal energy resources—even if demanded by consumers.
  • Threatens to increase the cost of energy for community colleges, the University of California and State University systems, hospitals, and local governments that will end up being paid by taxpayers.
  • Discourages future jobs and business investment in California.
  • Destabilizes the current progress toward a secure energy future for California.


LES NELSON, President
California Solar Energy Industries Association

KARL GAWELL, Executive Director
Geothermal Energy Association

JAMES SWEENEY, Co-Director of the Energy,
Natural Resources and the Environment Program at the
Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Rebuttal to Argument Against Proposition 80

The opponents’ argument makes the case FOR Proposition 80. They want to bring back deregulation by calling it consumer choice!

The first round of deregulation also emphasized “consumer choice.” The “choice” for consumers was higher rates, market manipulation, and rolling blackouts.

Deregulation brought a reliable electric system to its knees. It allowed traders to manipulate the market. Enron signed up the University of California—and then walked away. The State was forced into expensive long-term contracts to clean up the mess! And ordinary consumers had no real choices.

Proposition 80 reins in deregulation and ensures that electricity providers are accountable in the future. That’s the number one reason you should vote for it.

The opponents’ other claims are simply wrong.

Renewables? Proposition 80 not only speeds up from 2017 to 2010 the deadline for purchasing 20% of our energy needs from renewables, it repeals the existing legal limit on utilities’ purchases of renewables. How can that be bad for renewable energy?

Misuse of the initiative process? Major provisions of Proposition 80 passed the Legislature but were vetoed at the urging of energy company lobbyists. This is exactly what the initiative process was designed for.

Competition? Proposition 80 embraces competition between independent generators and utilities to build power plants at the lowest cost to consumers.

Don’t be swayed by fear tactics from the energy companies! We’ve had enough failure. Proposition 80 will stabilize the electrical system, avoid blackouts, bring rates down, and benefit all Californians.

Vote YES on Proposition 80.

MIKE MOWREY, International Vice-President, 9th District International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO

HENRY L. (HANK) LACAYO, State President
Congress of California Seniors

California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG)


Arguments printed on this page are the opinions of the authors and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency.


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