No on B: Los Angeles voters narrowly defeat local solar energy measure

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Voters in Tuesday’s local election in Los Angeles have apparently sent Measure B, the solar energy and job creation program ballot proposition, down to defeat. The most recent returns show the initiative losing in a close race, with the “No” votes holding 50.3% of the total. The results won’t be certified until thousands of absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

The results are somewhat surprising, since recent polls had the measure passing by a comfortable margin. The Los Angeles Times reports that when early returns showed the “Yes” votes in the lead Tuesday night, certain pro-Yes on B groups issued emails and press releases, which lauded the apparent victory.

The proposition would have amended the city charter to “authorize creation of an L.A. Department of Water and Power program to require production of at least 400 MW of solar power energy by 2014,” according to the measure’s wording. The summary noted that “to achieve this, the LADWP would install, operate, and maintain solar power installations on properties withing the City, and on City-owned airports.”

Although the measure had the strong support of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who was easily re-elected to a second term), most of the city council, and organizations such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, L.A. County Federation of Labor, Sierra Club, and League of Conservation Voters, opponents contended that proposition was hastily drawn up without proper review, would cut out private, non-DWP workers from the program, was a sweet deal for “special interest” groups like the IBEW, and might significantly raise electrical utility rates to consumers.

The effect of the measure’s failure on the city’s new Solar L.A. initiative remains unclear, although the Times story indicates that political leaders could reexamine the solar plan and send it to the DWP Commission for a vote–essentially keeping the momentum going.

Measure B is the latest solar/renewables-related proposition to go down to defeat in California. Voters soundly rejected two initiatives on the November 2008 ballot, both of which were derided by opponents as ill-conceived and poorly written. General support for the increased deployment of solar energy remains strong in the state.

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