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Sep 2, 2010 8:55 PM by Ariel Wesler

Prop 23 pits environmental groups against small business

If passed on the November ballot, Proposition 23 would suspend A.B. 32, a state law requiring lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, but those against the proposition say it would block California's growing pathway to alternative energy.

Supporters call it the Calfornia Jobs Intitative. Opponents label it the Dirty Energy Proposition. Either way, it has both sides fuming.

"At a time where, we are really in a hole. They're just digging the whole deeper, and we're really saying, let's be a little more sensible about this," said Executive Director Robin Hayhurst with the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association.

"This is an effort by out of town oil companies to keep California addicted to fossil fuels," said Linda Kropp, Chief Counsel for the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara.

Proposition 23 would suspend the Global Warming Act of 2006, which mandates retrofits to reduce carbon emissions by 2020.

"It doesn't eliminate them. It suspends them until the unemployment rate comes down," said Bob Engel, Vice President of Engel and Gray, Inc. , a trucking company in Santa Maria.

But to reinstate the law, California's 12 percent unemployment rate would have to drop to 5.5 percent for an entire year, something environmental groups argue basically repeals it.

"The threshold set by Prop 23 is so infeasible that it's not likely to happen," Kropp said.

It's only happened three times since 1980.

Those against Proposition 23 say it would destroy a growing green economy and the chance for more jobs, but supporters say those jobs are just the result of more costly regulations on small business.

Engel says of his 12 trucks, at least half wouldn't meet the tougher emissions standards. He's all in favor of going green, but says now just isn't the time.

"Over the next two years, we have to buy all new trucks or retrofit the trucks with special engine parts which is just a tremendous costs to businesses," Engel said.

What one side calls a polluter's dream the other calls a small business nightmare.

Prop 23 is also likely to become a factor in our governor's race. Whoever gets elected will have the power to suspend A.B. 32, regardless of whether the proposition passes. Generally, Meg Whitman supports Prop 23 while Jerry Brown is against it.

So far, Two Texas-based oil companies have donated more than $4 million to support Proposition 23. Opponents have raised a little more than half that amount.

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