El Paso Voters Should Reject Climate Charter | Citizens Against Government Waste

El Paso Voters Should Reject Climate Charter

The WasteWatcher

Residents of El Paso, Texas, will soon decide whether to amend the city’s charter by adopting what the Texas Tribune describes as “a sort of climate manifesto.”  If adopted in the Saturday, May 6, 2023, special election, Proposition K would require the city to “use all available resources…to reduce the City’s contribution to climate change;…invest in an environmentally sustainable future,” and “advance the cause of climate justice.”  

Forcing city residents to pay for the implementation of climate change policies if this proposition is adopted puts the cart before the horse and increases the city’s regulatory control over more than just the environment.  Section 9.8-1 of Proposition K creates a new Climate Director, whose responsibility it is to “create an annual Solar Power Generation Plan for the City of El Paso.”  To achieve the proposition’s goals of “80 percent clean renewable energy by 2030,” and “100 percent renewable energy by 2045,” the plan “shall include a feasibility analysis to describe how the City can develop internal capacity to generate energy for the City through solar power.” 

Proposition K would also require that developers of “both new and existing buildings and retrofitted buildings” be encouraged “to include solar power generation capacity wherever feasible.”  Provisions setting arbitrary goals for a shift away from fossil fuels calls the independence of any feasibility study into question.  However, Proposition K requires the city to achieve a certain energy efficiency threshold before they even have the opportunity to determine if such a course of action is even possible.

The proposition will not only fail to reduce emissions and force residents to shift away from fossil fuels, but also increase bureaucracy red tape by requiring the adoption of “climate impact statements” for everyday tasks.  Among the vast array of routine subjects that will require a “climate impact statement” before consideration are the city’s budget, zoning decisions, infrastructure improvements, and procurement.  Attaching an additional period of review to each and every action by the El Paso city government will only slow the pace of government and cost taxpayers more money.  It will also make the city less competitive than neighboring areas of the state that do not have such restrictions.

Unfortunately for El Pasoans, the proposals in Proposition K go beyond prioritizing climate change.  If adopted, the proposition could force privately-owned El Paso Electric into selling its assets to the city, creating a government-owned and operated public utility.  The City Manager will be required to work with the newly hired Climate Director to provide the City Council “with an annual report to describe the feasibility of converting El Paso Electric into a municipal electric company.” 

El Paso Electric, which has operated as a private entity since its founding in 1901, has publicly stated that it has no interest in being acquired by the government.  The utility has announced planned “investments of more than $2 billion in the next few years on infrastructure improvements, i.e., cybersecurity, smart grid, and fuel diversity.”  It has also taken steps to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, expressing its intent to shift to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, if technologically feasible. 

Proposition K would not only leave taxpayers on the hook for a costly acquisition battle with an unwilling seller, but also require the city to maintain and upgrade existing facilities that are already being planned for El Paso Electric.  And with the company already planning to abandon fossil fuels, the entire purpose of the climate charter seems moot.  Instead of forcing taxpayers to spend limited resources in a city with many problems that are unrelated to climate change, El Paso Electric and should be allowed to continue to make the shift to clean energy without costly and burdensome interference that puts political goals above existing or future technology.

In addition to being unnecessary, the proposition would have a significant negative economic impact on El Paso.  According to the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, if enacted, Proposition K would cost the city 130,000 jobs, $7.9 billion in earnings, and $28.2 billion in economic impact by 2030.  The report further noted that the El Paso economy would shrink by 40.8 percent, and the average El Paso household, whose median household income averages $51,325, would see losses of $38,000 over the long run. 

Proposition K would create a new bureaucracy to achieve a goal that is already being done by a private company, undermine the free market, and devastate the economy, which is already under severe pressure.  On May 6, El Paso voters should soundly reject this disastrous and out of touch proposal.