Election 2012: 5 State Ballot Measures Environmentalists Should Know About
A state constitutional amendment would give Arizona sovereign authority over the Grand Canyon (above) and 19 other national park units.
After a record-spending campaign season, Election Day is finally here. While much of the national focus will be on the Presidential race and which party will end up controlling the Senate, voters in several states are voting on measures that are of interest to any environmentalist. Here’s a look at five of these, which could affect everything from foods lining grocery store shelves, to iconic landmarks, to renewable energy development. We'll report back tomorrow with the results. UPDATE: The results are in. Of the five measures, four were defeated. Scroll down for details.
ARIZONA: Declaration of Sovereignty (Proposition 120)
Update: DEFEATED 67.6% voted against Proposition 120
Summary: The state constitutional amendment would declare Arizona's "sovereign and exclusive authority and jurisdiction over the air, water, public lands, minerals, wildlife and other natural resources within its boundaries."
What it means: The change would pave the way for Arizona to claim millions of federal acres—public lands that it gave up the rights to when it became a state. That includes 20 national park units, six national forests, and more within its borders (federal buildings, reservations, forts, arsenals, and dockyards are exempt).
Pro: "Opponents have said we want to strip mine the Grand Canyon," legislation sponsor Rep. Chester Crandell (R) told Greenwire. "No. What it would do is let the people of Arizona decide. But it doesn't automatically open it up and allow development helter-skelter."
Con: "We think it's pretty irresponsible," Sandy Bahr, conservation director for the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, told Greenwire. "And clearly our Legislature would have no capacity to manage these public lands. The thought of the Legislature having any control over places like the Grand Canyon frankly scares us."
CALIFORNIA: GMO labeling (Proposition 37)
Update: DEFEATED 53.1% voted against Proposition 37
Summary: “Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as ‘natural.’”
What it means: If it passes, the law would likely force food companies to change their labels across the country, since it would be expensive and difficult to have California-only labels for foods that are sold nationwide. There are several exemptions (e.g., alcoholic beverages, foods processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients). When it comes to the environmental risks of genetically engineered crops, no one knows exactly what will happen when transgenic products are released into the environment, though problems with pesticides have been cropping up.
Pro/Con: The differing opinions between Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum and Tom Philpott on the issue show just how complicated it is:
“As with so many initiatives, [it's] sloppily written; it can't be changed after it's passed; and it imposes expensive state labeling burdens on interstate commerce, something that I'm increasingly leery of," writes Drum. Philpott counters: “At the national level, the GM seed/agrichemical giants, with their well-heeled lobbying efforts, have managed to stymie all other democratic means for reining them in.”
OREGON: Salmon fishing (Measure 81)
Update: DEFEATED 66.2% voted against Measure 81