Electric power and business interests throughout California arehailing the overwhelming voter rejection of Prop 9 (72%-28%), theelectric reform initiative that would have crippled California’scomplex pioneering effort at creating a competitive electricitymarket. Similar reactions were echoed on the East Coast whereQuestion 4 in Massachusetts was passed by voters, sustaining itsongoing electricity competition.

As was the case in Massachusetts, it was a David-and-Goliathbattle but David didn’t win, as grass roots consumer interestsgetting outspent and overwhelmed by major utility, business, laborand environmental interests. Nevertheless the Davids in both stateshave pledged to continue their campaigns to modify existingelectricity deregulation laws-either through new state legislationor court appeals.

“The voters of California have spoken loudly, clearly anddecisively,” officials at Southern California Edison Co. said in aprepared statement. “The depth of public opposition to Prop. 9 byindependent opinion leaders was unprecedented in California ballotproposition history.”

“We lost this battle, but we’re still committed to our missionto improve this outrageously lopsided deal for Californiaconsumers,” said Nettie Hoge, executive director of The UtilityReform Network (TURN), referring to the utilities’ stranded costswhich were loaded onto consumers as the quid pro quo forrestructuring. Prop 9 would have unbundled consumers from thosecharges.

In California a broad-based coalition of the state’s biggestsocio-economic interests reportedly spent $41 million fightingProp. 9. The proponents of the measure had little in the way ofadvertising or political campaign funds, relying on a network ofgrass roots workers taking their message door-to-door.InMassachusetts, the pro-electric restructuring backers reportedlyspent $6.6 million, compared to $250,000 by their opponents.

“The voters are sending a message that they like utilityderegulation, they like the savings they are getting,” said StephenAllen, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Yes-on-Question 4coalition. His opponents were less sanguine. John O’Connor, aspokesman for the group calling itself the Campaign for FairElectric Rates, said “We got outspent, and we knew-win or lose-wewere going back to the legislature or to the voters in two years.We are not going to let a misleading advertising program, whichthey used, deter us.”

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