California clean technology companies, national environmental groups and wealthy conservationists are pouring money into a campaign to defeat Proposition 23, a November ballot initiative that would suspend the state's global warming law.
As of Thursday, opponents of Proposition 23 had raised $19.6 million, more than twice as much as supporters of the initiative, which is mainly funded by major oil refiners based in Texas, Kansas and Ohio
But opponents remain wary.
"We are girding for what the oil companies traditionally have done on California ballot measures, when they've dumped millions of dollars into the campaign in the final stretch," said Steve Maviglio, spokesman for the No on 23 campaign.
Bill Day, a spokesman for San-Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp., which has contributed $4 million of the $9 million raised for the Yes on 23 campaign, said, " Valero has not made any decisions at this point about additional financial support to the Prop. 23 campaign."
In addition to Valero, which operates refineries in Wilmington and Benicia, donors include Texas-based Tesoro Co. ($1.5 million) and Kansas-based Koch Industries ($1 million), which is also a major supporter of the tea party movement. Only one significant contribution has been made in the past month: $500,000 from Ohio based Marathon Petroleum Co.
This week, the Washington-based League of Conservation Voters contributed $1.2 million to the No campaign and added Proposition 23 to its Dirty Dozen list of races it considers critical. It was the first time that a ballot initiative has been listed.
League President Gene Karpinski called Proposition 23 "the single most important race in the country." If regulations to rein in carbon dioxide and other planet-heating emissions are thwarted in California, "these dirty energy interests will ramp up their efforts to stifle new energy policies in Congress and in other states," he said.
California's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB 32 is aimed at controlling fossil-fuel pollution that scientists say is disrupting Earth's climate. It would force utilities to get a third of their electricity from renewable sources, improve the efficiency of automobiles and buildings and cap emissions from industrial plants.
Proposition 23 would suspend the law until unemployment in California dropped to 5.5% for a year — a level that historically has rarely been achieved. Current joblessness is over 12%.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who sees AB 32 as a major part of his legacy, held a fundraiser at his Brentwood home last month, which raised $1 million.
Schwarzenegger has refused to endorse fellow Republican Meg Whitman in her gubernatorial race against Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. Although Whitman opposes Proposition 23, she says she would suspend the global warming law for at least a year and "fix" it to make it more flexible for business. Brown favors proceeding with regulations, scheduled to take effect in January.
Contributions from opponents have more than tripled in the past month, largely from Silicon Valley investors.
Anita Mangels, a spokeswoman for Yes on 23, said technology executives are fighting Proposition 23 because global warming regulations "will subsidize their green-tech investments, penalize their competition and create a guaranteed market for their products."
Thomas Steyer, founder of San Francisco-based Farallon Capital Management, and a $5 million donor to the No campaign, said donors' "common thread is for jobs to grow here." In the first half of 2010, California garnered 40% of global clean tech investment.