El Paso, Texas, Proposition K, “Climate Change and Climate Justice” Charter Amendment (May 2023)
In May 2023, the city of El Paso, Texas voted on Prop K, a bold climate charter amendment initiative. This local ballot measure sought to completely transform El Paso’s approach to climate change through new legal requirements around renewable energy, sustainability, and environmental justice. However, the ambitious proposal ended up being solidly defeated at the polls. This article will explore what exactly Prop K would have done, the debate surrounding it, and the implications of its rejection by voters.
What Prop K Would Have Done
At its core, Prop K aimed to fundamentally alter El Paso’s city charter and establish legally binding climate goals and policies. Here are some of the key components of what it was designed to do:
Establish Climate Goals and Policies
Prop K would have amended the city charter to declare “three goals of paramount importance” around addressing climate change, investing in sustainability, and promoting climate justice. This would have created a legal obligation for the city to pursue these aims.
Create Climate Department, Director, Commission
The measure called for establishing a new Climate Department and Climate Director position. It also would have formed a 9-member Climate Commission to provide oversight.
Require 100% Renewable Energy by 2045
Prop K sought to mandate that El Paso transition to 100% renewable energy by the year 2045. This included interim targets of 80% by 2030.
Municipalize Electric Utility
A major provision required the city to make efforts to convert the private electric utility El Paso Electric into a municipal utility under public ownership and control.
Restrict Water Sales for Fossil Fuels
The amendment would have prohibited the city from selling or transferring water for use in fossil fuel extraction and generation outside city limits.
Prohibit Fees on Renewable Energy
Prop K banned any fees or fines that would limit or discourage the adoption of renewable energy sources.
Support and Opposition
The measure faced divided views in El Paso.
Supporters: Environmental Groups
Prop K was primarily championed by local environmental organizations like Sunrise El Paso along with progressive political groups. They argued it was necessary to address climate change.
Opponents: Utility, Business Groups, Officials
Major opponents included the El Paso Electric utility itself, the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, and local elected officials. They contended it was unrealistic and would raise energy costs.
Path to the Ballot
Prop K qualified for the ballot through a grassroots signature campaign. Activists submitted over 36,000 signatures, exceeding the threshold of 20,000 valid signatures required. This citizen initiative process allowed it to bypass elected officials.
Previous Renewable Energy Measures
Voters in El Paso had approved a smaller renewable energy bond measure in November 2022 focusing on areas like solar panel installations. However, Prop K represented a much more sweeping and ambitious climate policy vision.
When it came up for a vote in May 2023, Prop K was solidly defeated at the polls. Approximately 82% voted against it compared to only 18% in favor.
Implications and Analysis
The landslide rejection of such an ambitious climate proposal carries important implications:
- It likely demonstrates El Paso voters were not ready to approve such far-reaching changes and costs around renewable energy at this time.
- The defeat highlights the ongoing political and socioeconomic divisions when it comes to climate policy action, even in progressive cities.
- Passing transformative change at the local level remains very challenging, even on critical issues like climate change.
- It shows the stark gap between urgent calls from activists for radical steps around sustainability and what citizens are actually willing to approve.
Despite the setback, Prop K represented an intriguing local attempt at using the municipal ballot process to mandate climate action from the bottom-up. The proposal itself provided an illustration of just how transformative city policy could aim to be around renewable energy and environmental justice. Its defeat does not mean these issues are going away for El Paso, as calls for more climate progress will likely continue. However, it does demonstrate the persisting obstacles in transforming passion around sustainability into realities at the ballot box.
Prop K in El Paso sought major changes around climate policy through a local charter amendment, but ultimately met firm rejection from voters. While the defeat highlighted current limits around citizens imposing sweeping green mandates, the aspirations behind the measure represent the growing demands for urgent renewable energy and justice solutions in cities. Climate change will remain a pressing concern, and future proposals will continue to demand increased commitments. However, the case of Prop K in El Paso demonstrated that translating activism into approved transformational ballot measures remains an elusive challenge.
Q: What percentage of voters rejected Prop K?
A: Approximately 81.57% voted against Prop K compared to 18.43% voting in favor, resulting in solid defeat.
Q: Who were the main supporters of Prop K?
A: Local environmental groups like Sunrise El Paso and progressive political organizations primarily championed the measure.
Q: What did Prop K aim to do around renewable energy?
A: Prop K sought to mandate 100% renewable energy for El Paso by 2045, including 80% by 2030 along the way.
Q: How did Prop K get on the ballot?
A: Activists qualified it through a signature campaign, submitting over 36,000 signatures.
Q: Did El Paso voters recently approve other climate measures?
A: Voters passed a more modest renewable energy bond in November 2022 before rejecting Prop K.