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Proposition 23: Environmentalists power up

September 22, 2010 | 10:31 pm

Valero handout
California environmental groups are launching a massive grassroots organizing effort to defeat Proposition 23, the November ballot initiative to suspend the state's 2006 global warming law.

On Monday,  a conference call to rally opposition drew 23,077 participants. The call was hosted by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Michael Kieschnick, president of Credo Action, a San-Francisco based group funded by Working Assets, the telecommunications network. 

"This call is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Californians who want to protect our progress in fighting climate change," Brune said. The San Francisco-based Sierra Club has 150,000 California members in 13 chapters.

This week, mainly on Thursday evening,  85 gatherings around the state, from Arcata to Vacaville,  have been organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Boston-based non-profit with broad California membership.  A UCS website, www.ucsusa.org/houseparty, allows would-be participants to enter Zip codes and find the closest get-together near their residences.

The parties, featuring food, drink, speakers, a mini-documentary on the ballot measure and organizing literature, are mostly in individual homes. But two Thursday events, at Los Angeles' TreePeople headquarters in Coldwater Canyon Park and at Oakland's Chabot Space and Science Center, have attracted more than 100 acceptances each. So far, about 1,000 participants have signed up to attend the house parties statewide, according to UCS.

"We're not just preaching to the choir," said Dan Kalb, UCS' California policy manager. "We are reaching beyond our base to mobilize people."

Facebook and web pages to mount phone banks and training sessions are proliferating, including the Sierra Club's StandAgainstProp23.com, Credo's StopTexasOil.org, and the No campaign's StopDirtyEnergyProp.com. Credo is running daily phone banks in five cities and has also mounted 30 small demonstrations at gas stations owned by Valero Energy Corp., the initiative's biggest funder.

California's aggressive climate law, AB 32, would cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020, by enacting measures to transition the state from fossil fuels to cleaner energy such as solar-powered electricity.

But if Prop 23 passes, it would delay the law until the state's unemployment rate drops to 5.5% for a full year--a level it has experienced only three times in the last four decades. California's jobless rate stands at more than 12% now.

Led by the San Antonio-based Valero., and other oil refiners, proponents have contributedmore than $8 million to the ballot measure so far, saying that the global warming law would lead to job losses and gasoline shortages and do little to combat global warming. Opponents have raised about $6 million.

The measure's backers have mounted a website, Yeson23.com, but have yet to reveal any plan for organizing on a grassroots level. Several small demonstrations have been held by proponents, including "tea party" activists.

Two spokespersons for the Yes on Prop 23 campaign did not respond to several inquiries.

--Margot Roosevelt

RECENT AND RELATED:

Prop 23: Oil giants are divided

Prop 23: Terrorism vs. gas price hikes

Mayor Villaraigosa: "Go home Texas oil companies"

Photo: An activist hands out fliers at a Valero gas station in Los Angeles, protesting against Proposition 23. Credit: Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times

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