Environmentalists scored a victory in the New Hampshire governor's race last night but lost one of the biggest state energy fights of the year over a renewable ballot proposal in Michigan.
Meanwhile, the governor's race in Washington -- which could determine the status of proposed Northwestern coal ports and renewable policies -- remained too close to call as of press time.
In New Hampshire's gubernatorial contest, Democrat Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Ovide Lamatogne with more than 54 percent of the vote. The race was watched closely by climate advocates because of Lamatogne's pledge to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the nation's first operating cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases.
"Thank you, New Hampshire, now let's get to work," said Hassan in a short victory speech.
Hassan was instrumental in the state's participation in the regional carbon trading program in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, known informally as RGGI. Lamatogne -- who was named "conservative of the year" in 2011 by the New Hampshire branch of the group Americans for Prosperity -- said the program raised energy costs.
Hassan's victory could "breathe new life" into the program, which is undergoing a critical regional review that could determine whether its emissions limits are strengthened, said Barry Rabe, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan. Supporters of RGGI say it raises money for energy efficiency projects.
The Michigan ballot initiative, known as Proposal 3, would have amended the state constitution and raised the state's portfolio standard, requiring utilities to obtain 25 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2025. The current standard requires 10 percent renewable generation by 2015.
Votes against renewables or against constitutional amendments?
The ballot proposal in Michigan gained national attention, partly because it bucked the trend of states considering bills that would freeze or reverse existing renewable standards, rather than raise them. Green groups from as far as away as San Francisco funneled money into the state campaign.
Michigan's two main utilities spent millions of dollars fighting the measure via an umbrella group. They said the proposal would raise costs, create regulatory confusion and lead to thousands of wind turbines in congested areas. Supporters said it would jump-start the state economy, create thousands of clean energy jobs and slash emissions at the same time (ClimateWire, Oct. 12).
The state official election site showed a decisive loss for Proposal 3, despite polls earlier this year suggesting a possible victory.
The proposal failed partly because of voter skepticism about amending the state constitution, said Rabe, who did not have a position on the plan. He noted that other ballot proposals that would have amended the constitution failed last night in Michigan, as well.
The outcome shows that the idea of amending renewable standards this way is a "stretch" politically, he said.
There also was a sense in the state that the ballot proposal was not "homegrown," considering the interest of so many outside groups, said Rabe. Heavy advertising against the proposal likely played a role in the defeat, he said.
Critics of Proposal 3 said that incorporating renewable energy standards into the state constitution would open the door to lawsuits. Many supporters said, however, they had few other options, considering that the state Legislature has not been amenable to raising standards.
Wash. ballots still 'trickling in'
In Washington, Democrat Jay Inslee took an early lead in the gubernatorial race over Republican Rob McKenna, but the race might not be resolved by today, considering the state's use of mailed ballots.