Most of the results are in from Tuesday’s election, and when it comes to environmental issues, the outcomes sent a lot of mixed messages. While renewable energy and the fight against climate change won in some states, fossil fuel companies are celebrating in other states. Read on for the results to important environmental issues of 2018 elections across the country.
Changes in Washington
On the national stage, the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, putting up a roadblock to any major environmental legislation President Trump would like to pass. In the past two years, the POTUS has pushed for an attack on the Endangered Species Act and a farm bill with limited controls on water pollution and pesticides. So for environmental activists, this change is a big win. Also, many of the Republicans who were ousted from the House were climate-science deniers, and voters replaced them with Democrats who are supporters of investments in clean energy.
But in the Senate, there was a big blow in the Florida race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Governor Rick Scott. During his time as a Senator, Nelson had consistently voted in favor of climate action and attacked anyone who denied climate science. Nelson lost to Scott, who has a history of challenging the science behind climate change. There will likely be a recount in this race, because it was so close. Climate activists were also hoping that Democrat Beto O’Rourke would unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but Cruz held on and ended up defeating O’Rourke.
There were a couple of wins in the Senate for climate activists. Mitt Romney won the race in Utah (he scored higher on climate issues than his opponent, Democrat Jenny Wilson). In Nevada, challenger Jacky Rosen defeated the incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller. During his time in office, Heller expressed doubts about the science of climate change, and he also voted against any effort to reduce carbon pollution.
Results of state ballot initiatives
The environment did not score a lot of wins when it came to state ballot initiatives, but there were a few victories.
Alaska Salmon Initiative – defeated
The first measure on Alaska’s ballot was an initiative that would have forced the state’s Department of Fish and Game to hand out permits for projects and activities that might harm fish. The measure also focused on improving habitats for anadromous fish, like salmon, by looking at water quality, stream flow and temperature.
Arizona Proposition 127 – defeated
This clean energy proposal would have required 50 percent of electricity from utility companies to come from renewable sources by 2030.
California Proposition 3 – pending, projected defeat
The most significant proposition on California’s ballot related to environmental issues was Proposition 3. But with over 93 percent of precincts reporting at the time of writing, 52 percent of voters have rejected it, and the projection is that it will not pass. This initiative would have allocated close to $8 billion in funds for surface and groundwater storage, watershed protection (habitat restoration) and water infrastructure.
Colorado Proposition 112 – defeated
This ballot proposition would have banned oil and gas drilling on 85 percent of non-federal lands in the state, but it failed to pass. The fossil fuel industry invested millions into this election to defeat Proposition 112.
Florida Constitutional Revision 4 – passed
Florida took a major step against offshore drilling in this election. Constitutional Revision 4 bans offshore drilling and will put an end to oil and gas mining on lands under state waters. Lumped into this revision is a ban that will prevent individuals from vaping inside closed workplaces. The ban included all electronic devices that generate vapor, such as electronic cigarettes, and will only be enforced in indoor workplaces. This movement for clean water and air passed by 69 percent.
Georgia Amendment 1 – passed
This proposal allows up to 80 percent of the revenue from sales and use taxes of outdoor recreational goods to go toward land conservation: protecting water quality, conserving forests and wildlife habitats and improving state and local parks. The measure had overwhelming bipartisan support and passed by 83 percent.
Montana Ballot Issue #14 I-186 – defeated
This initiative would have helped regulate new rock mines in the state by requiring them to have plans for reclamation, restoration or rehabilitation to receive permits. The new mines would have also been required to have adequate plans to avoid water pollution.
Nevada Question 6 – passed
This initiative aims to put the state on track for renewable energy by 2030. Voters said yes to all utility companies investing in renewable energy over the next 12 years. The measure also requires electric companies to transform half of their electrical output to renewable sources by the projected date.
Rhode Island Bond Measure – passed
Voters approved this bond measure that authorizes $47.3 million in funds for various environmental projects throughout the state. The measure outlines where the money will be allocated and the different types of projects that will be funded, including coastal resiliency and access, clean water and treatment, dam infrastructure, bikeway initiatives, farmland access and local recreation. The largest project on the ballot is related to improving water quality and will receive $7.9 million. The measure passed with nearly 79 percent of voters’ support.
Washington Initiative 1631 – defeated
Initiative 1631 in Washington was designed to target greenhouse gases while rewarding companies that promote clean energy. The law would have imposed the nation’s first fees on carbon emissions, starting out at $15 for every metric ton of carbon and increasing every year by $2. The money from the fees was also going to go back into the environment and help improve air quality, raise awareness about clean energy and examine environmental issues in various communities. Companies that complied with the environmental standards could have also received credits from the added revenue. The U.S. oil industry pumped about $30 million into the race to stop this initiative from passing.