Fellow El Pasoans,
On April 24, early voting begins for the Uniform Election scheduled for May 6. Among the items to be considered is Proposition K, the so-called “Climate Charter Amendment,” which is the creation of the Sunrise Movement.
WHAT IS THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT?
The “Sunrise Movement” is a lovely name. It reminds me of the morning mist on a field of lavender at dawn.
But the group is a 501(c)4 based in Washington, DC that is organized into over 400 “hubs” spread across all 50 states, with millions of dollars in annual support from numerous organizations. They have strong allies in Congress, including Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ed Markey, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar.
According to their webpage, “Sunrise is building a movement of young people across race and class to stop the climate crisis and win a Green New Deal. We will force the government to end the reign of fossil fuel elites, invest in Black, brown and working class communities, and create millions of good union jobs.” The Green New Deal is a multi-trillion-dollar initiative that was conceived in 2006 by a national task force as “a plan for one hundred percent clean, renewable energy by 2030.”
Their webpage emphatically declares its opposition to the GOP, which it compares to the Nazi Party, and exclaims “So yeah, we’re Fighting F–king Fascism.”
During the 2018 midterms, the Sunrise Movement worked to defeat candidates who did not refuse contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
In 2019, the group signed a letter to Congress denouncing nuclear power as “dirty energy” that should be excluded from any legislation promoting renewable energy.
In 2020, the Sunrise Movement co-organized a four-day “crash course” to train activists “how to turn the mandate to ‘Defund the Police’ into tangible action.”
In 2021, the group signed a letter to President Biden and Congress demanding that the U.S. cooperate with China, claiming that “escalating, bipartisan anti-China rhetoric […] bolsters racist, right-wing movements in the United States” and that the “U.S. demonization of China has always been a major barrier to progress in global climate talks.”
The group has urged its political allies to embrace “Palestinian liberation” and oppose Zionism. In fact, the Washington DC chapter recently refused to attend a voting rights rally because of its opposition to “Zionism and any state that enforces its ideology,” since three pro-Israel Jewish groups had planned to participate alongside them.
SUNRISE EL PASO
The national webpage of the Sunrise Movement now includes a page dedicated to the “El Paso Climate Charter,” which is described as “a MASSIVE shift in our municipal government towards climate justice.” The page identifies the “Fossil Fuel industry’s attack on communities and democracy” as a Republican conspiracy.
The webpage claims the group talked to over 100,000 El Pasoans and that 40,000 signed their proposal for a Climate Charter Amendment.
The El Paso hub of the Sunrise Movement is called “Sunrise El Paso,” which manages two web pages: sunriseelpaso.org and elpasoclimate.org. Their messaging is less abrasive than that of their mother organization in Washington DC and more narrowly focused on climate change.
Sunrise El Paso is planning a rally at Lincoln Park on April 8 at 10:00am that will feature a “special broadcasted message from actress + activist Jane Fonda.”
Our local media have followed the recent successes of Sunrise El Paso with much interest.
The first substantive report was published on March 27 by the Texas Tribune, which characterizes Proposition K as “a sort of climate manifesto, calling on the city of El Paso to reorganize its employees, create a new climate department and rethink local policy at all levels to cut greenhouse gas emissions and put the entire community on a path to an ‘environmentally sustainable future.'” The report cites the claim by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales that the proposition “would cause electricity bills to skyrocket and force widespread job losses.”
On July 22, 2022, the El Paso Times announced that the proposition’s supporters overcame their first hurdle, collecting over 39,000 signatures from El Paso residents.
Since that time the business community has become increasingly alarmed, with the El Paso Chamber telling El Paso Matters last month that “The city of El Paso would lose 170,000 jobs and nearly $8 billion in workers’ earnings between now and 2030” if the amendment were passed.
According to El Paso Inc, the members of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber were canvassed about the amendment, with about 90% expressing their opposition and 80% “saying they feel their business would not survive if Proposition K were passed.”
On March 28, Sunrise El Paso struck back, telling the El Paso Times that the accusations leveled against them are false.
On March 29, we learned from El Paso Matters that the City of El Paso hired a consultant, Yearout Energy, which issued a report last week claiming the amendment “would cost the city as much as $155 million between now and 2045 to implement, plus another $4.1 million in annual operating costs over that time.”
On March 31, the Texas Land Commissioner, Dawn Buckingham, came out forcefully against Proposition K in a fiery guest column for the El Paso Times.
Today the national non-profit Citizens Against Government Waste, which has been promoting fiscal discipline since its founding in 1984, came out with a hard-hitting report opposing Proposition K. This is the first national-level push against Proposition K and will likely generate interest among like-minded groups.
WHY PROPOSITION K MUST BE DEFEATED
I am not going to evaluate here the claims of the Chamber of Commerce or the City. Both have a history of making false statements and commissioning useless, or even mendacious, reports on issues of fiscal importance. I believe that the plain language of Proposition K speaks for itself and does not require consultants for understanding how it would negatively impact El Pasoans. Here is why it must be defeated:
1. El Paso Electric has been a private company since its establishment in 1901 and Proposition K requires “the City of El Paso to employ all available efforts to convert El Paso Electric to municipal ownership,” even though the company is worth around $8 billion and has no interest in being purchased. We cannot afford to purchase El Paso Electric, even in our wildest dreams, and any attempt to do so would almost certainly spark years of costly litigation.
2. El Paso Electric has four power stations fired by petroleum, producing the majority of our electric power. Two are in El Paso (Newman and Copper). Two are just outside El Paso (Sunland Park and Montana), and both of these plants rely upon water from our City. In addition, the petroleum tank farm just outside the City limits, owned by Magellan Midstream LP, also relies upon City water. Proposition K would “ban the use of City water for fossil fuel industry activities” outside the City limits. Thus, Proposition K would effectively shut down two of the four petroleum-fired plants owned by El Paso Electric as well as the Magellan Midstream tank farm, severely and immediately curtailing our power-generating capacity and causing chaos and economic hardship for homeowners and businesses.
3. Miguel Escoto, a spokesperson for Sunrise El Paso, told El Paso Matters that “The only required cost within the Climate Charter is hiring a single employee, the climate director,” when in fact the Director would oversee an entire new City ministry, “with sufficient personnel and resources to carry out the climate policy and related duties and responsibilities.” Proposition K does not specify any budget for the proposed Climate Department or the number of employees to be hired, but we do know they would have purview over a broad range of City operations. Would this provision go beyond the $5.2 million climate mandates in Proposition C, which passed in December? We don’t know.
4. Proposition K requires “the employment of all available methods so that all energy used within the City is generated by clean renewable energy, with the goals of
requiring (1) 80% clean renewable energy by 2030 and (2) 100% clean renewable energy by 2045.” Excuse me, but the Charter of the City of El Paso is our controlling document, much like the Constitution is the controlling document for our nation. Has anyone ever tried to insert “goals” into the U.S. Constitution? Not only is this provision inappropriate, it is absolutely unattainable.
5. Sunrise El Paso actually told the El Paso Times that small businesses will benefit from “reduced electricity rates overall.” If you believe that, then you also believe that the Loch Ness Monster lives in Elephant Butte Lake and that Bigfoot and Tarzan party with Santa Claus and Pinocchio on North Franklin Peak.
6. The Sunrise Movement is focused not only on climate change, but also on defunding the police, liberating the Palestinians from the Zionists, denouncing Republicans as Nazis, and increasing cooperation with the Chinese, among other things. With positions such as these, the organization is hopelessly out of synch with the views held by most El Pasoans.
El Pasoans who take the time to read the text of Proposition K will understand that it is not only unworkable, but would be a financial calamity of the highest order.
A better approach would have been to legislate pragmatic improvements to City energy policies over time and perhaps to develop a City strategy to take control over the power lines, which run over public land, and lease them to new competition; yet you will not find any realistic or market-based solutions among Sunrise El Paso’s proposals. I am sure the Sunrise folks are well-meaning, but they are totally unmoored from reality.
No matter what you think about climate change, Proposition K must be defeated. Period.
Photo credit: Act Blue/Sunrise