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Californians support change to energy policy with new cap-and-trade program

Satellite image of the Los Angeles Basin (Photo/Courtesy of NASA/JPL)

Californians overwhelmingly support a new law that requires some large businesses in the state to cut their greenhouse gas emissions or buy credits to offset their pollution, according to the latest USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times Poll.

By a margin of 2-to-1, voters support the Golden State’s new cap-and-trade program, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which was passed in 2006 and went into effect on Nov. 14. The law creates financial incentives to encourage companies to produce alternative energy and sets limits on the amount of pollution they can emit into the air.

When read a pair of statements describing arguments for and against the new program, 63 percent of Californians agreed with the view that the state needs this change to “break from outdated energy policies.”

The statement continued, arguing that the law would reward companies that produce alternative energy, such as wind and solar power, and will recharge the economy by creating jobs, attracting new, innovative companies to California and reducing dependence on foreign oil.

Thirty-two percent of voters agreed more closely with the counter statement that “the cap-and-trade plan is a job-killing energy tax that will stifle economic growth” when the state can least afford it. The statement continued, arguing that the plan could raise gas prices, increase energy costs and cut thousands of jobs in California.

“Even as the debate continues over the economic impact of the state’s new cap-and-trade rules, California voters seem to have made up their minds that they can have stronger environmental protections without sacrificing economic growth,” said Dan Schnur, director of the poll and director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. “The challenge for the state’s business community is convincing Californians that cap-and-trade will cause significant harm to the economy, but it’s clear from these poll results that they have a steep uphill fight.”

Support for the law differs across party lines: Fifty-four percent of registered Republicans agree more closely with the statement that cap-and-trade is something the state can’t afford, while 42 percent believe it is the change California needs. Seventy-four percent of registered Democrats believe it is the change the state needs, and 20 percent said it will stifle the economy. Among decline-to-state voters, 68 percent said it’s the change we need, while 28 percent said California can’t afford it.

Voters split on amending Environmental Quality Act

Voters are nearly split on whether to make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires companies and organizations that want to build something to complete an environmental impact study of the proposed project prior to approval. State legislators have recently proposed changing the law by streamlining environmental review and limiting lawsuits.

Forty-six percent of Californians said that relaxing the CEQA requirements is a good idea, and 45 percent believed it to be a bad idea when read a pair of statements relaying arguments for each side.

The first statement read, “Some people say relaxing these requirements is a bad idea that will only have negative consequences on our environment and way of life but also hurt our economy and reduce property values in the long run.”

The second statement read, “Other people say relaxing these requirements is a good idea that will limit excessive government regulation,” noting it would help businesses create jobs and jump-start the economy by speeding up infrastructure projects and attracting businesses to the state.

Twenty-eight percent of voters said they strongly believed relaxing CEQA requirements is a bad idea, and 16 percent “not so strongly” believed it was a bad idea. Twenty-nine percent said they strongly believed relaxing CEQA requirements is a good idea, and 18 percent believed it was a good idea “not so strongly.” Five percent were undecided.

Support for amending the regulations shifted sharply across party lines: Fifty-two percent of registered Democrats said relaxing CEQA is a bad idea, and 38 percent said it is a good idea; 29 percent of registered Republicans said relaxing the regulations is a bad idea, and 65 percent said it’s a good idea; 49 percent of decline-to-state voters said it’s a bad idea, and 40 percent said it’s a good idea.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted from Nov. 7-12 by Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican polling firm American Viewpoint. The full sample of 1,520 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Follow all election news coverage at Election 2012, a resource for journalists and others interested in politics created by USC Media Relations.


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Californians support change to energy policy with new cap-and-trade program

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