California’s Ballot Proposition 7: Legal and Environmental Impact

For Immediate Release

Analysis by Berkeley Law’s Center for Environmental Law & Policy Separates Fact from Fiction


Contact: Susan Gluss, UC Berkeley School of Law, 510.642.6936 / 510.705.3366 (cell)

Berkeley, CA—October 16, 2008… University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s California Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CCELP) has released an independent analysis of Proposition 7, a ballot initiative that calls for the state to increase power from renewable energy. Initiative supporters and critics are debating its merits in a noisy statewide ad campaign.  But the facts are often obscured in confusing claims by both sides.

Steven Weissman, associate director of CCELP and author of the analysis, says the controversial provisions of Proposition 7 “reflect flaws in the initiative itself and a level of complexity that defies easy answers.”  In his report, Weissman explains the state’s current renewable energy program, the key features of Proposition 7, and the legal issues the initiative might raise if passed by California voters in the November 2008 election.


Berkeley Law’s Steven Weissman cuts through the clutter and uncovers the facts:

  • Claim: Proposition 7 would limit the Renewable Portfolio Standard to large renewable generators, shutting out smaller producers of, say, solar or clean energy.  FACT: On the contrary, courts would probably interpret it as permitting all renewable energy firms to participate, no matter their size. But the initiative’s language is ambiguous, leaving it open to legal challenges.
  • Claim: The provision in Proposition 7 allowing utilities to pay a 10% premium for renewable power would result in a large rate increase.  FACT: Even in the worst case scenario, rate hikes would probably rise only about 2-3% by 2025.
  • Claim: The Proposition’s requirement that municipal utilities reach a goal of 20% renewable energy by 2010 would substantially increase the state’s renewable energy usage. FACT: It won’t make a difference, because, in most cases, these utilities are well underway toward meeting those goals. For the few trailing behind, the 2010 deadline is impossible to meet.
  • Claim: Proposition 7 will result in redundant responsibilities for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California Energy Commission (CEC). FACT: New language added to parallel statutes governing the CPUC and the CEC will lead to confusion over electric transmission line jurisdiction and final decision-making authority.
  • Claim: Proposition 7 will be difficult to modify if problems or ambiguities arise, since, under the express terms of the measure, the California Legislature can only approve changes by a two-thirds vote in each chamber.  FACT: This is the same two-thirds “supermajority” vote required under state law to approve a tax increase or a state budget, both of which have been difficult to pass in recent years.

To arrange interviews with CCELP Associate Director Steven Weissman, contact him directly at:, (o) 510-642-0508, or (cell) 510-717-2422.

Download the white paper on Proposition 7

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California Center for Environmental Law & Policy (CCELP) is a research center at UC Berkeley School of Law. Its mission is to foster interdisciplinary environmental law and policy research and to translate that research into pragmatic solutions. Berkeley has a history of involvement by students and faculty in environmental issues, including publication of the nation’s leading environmental law journal, the Ecology Law Quarterly.