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California Power Reregulation Ballot Push Goes Down in Flames

Against the backdrop of apparent voter confusion, strong opposition from various state newspaper editorial boards and a thumbs down from all five members of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Proposition 80, California's retail electricity reregulation ballot initiative, was rejected by California voters last Tuesday. The rejection was part of a broader avalanche of opposition at the ballot box to a number of initiatives up for consideration this year in the state.

"The initiative, sponsored by consumer advocates, tried to draw on public anger from the state's 2000 energy crisis, but polls suggested that it confused voters," the Los Angeles Times reported in its Wednesday editions on the rejection of Proposition 80. The Times was one of several newspapers in the state that had urged voters to turn aside Proposition 80 in editorials published in the weeks and months prior to the Nov. 8 vote. According to the newspaper, the final tally on Proposition 80 was a lopsided 65.7% against and 34.3% in favor.

"California voters have delivered a stunning rebuke to those who tried to obstruct California's recovery from the energy crisis with a complicated, flawed and unnecessary initiative," said Californians for Reliable Electricity spokesman Dan Pellissier. "With this politically motivated road block removed, California can accelerate improving our electricity system by building cleaner, more efficient generating plants needed to meet the demands of our growing population and economy."

Proposition 80 "was opposed by all five members of the California Public Utilities Commission, environmentalists and the editorial board of every major California newspaper because the initiative process is the wrong way to make energy policy," he added. "Now California can develop a sensible energy policy with stakeholder input at public hearings and without the dictates of a special interest group. By defeating Proposition 80, California voters preserved their choice of lower cost electricity suppliers, supported competitive markets and protected the environmental benefits of clean energy."

Constellation Energy said that California voters "have spoken in support of the environment and in favor of competitive markets. They've sent a clear signal that the initiative process is the wrong way to develop responsible energy policy for the state."

Constellation said that the CPUC and the state legislature "can now continue with the development of a competitive wholesale and retail market design that will ensure customer choice and encourage development of much-needed generation capacity. The defeat of Proposition 80 highlights the leadership of the PUC, which forcefully opposed the measure in a courageous and unanimous 5-0 vote Sept. 8, 2005."

At the time of announcing their opposition to the measure, the state regulators cited the following "flaws" of Proposition 80: (a) duplication of procurement and renewable energy authority, (b) termination of direct access electricity buying for retail customers, (c) creation of problems for community choice aggregation that the state is in the process of implementing, albeit slowly, and (d) elimination of the possibility of dynamic pricing for retail electric/gas utility customers.

Along with Proposition 80, California voters rejected seven other ballot proposals on Tuesday, four of which were supported by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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