Voters in El Paso, Texas, to decide on a charter amendment to require the city to consider climate change

El Paso voters will vote on a charter amendment, titled Proposition K, to declare “[reducing] the city’s contribution to climate change” and “[advancing] the cause of climate justice” of paramount importance on May 6, 2023.

The charter amendment would also:

  • require El Paso to use energy generated by renewable sources (defined as “energy generated without burning carbon or releasing greenhouse gasses”), with a goal of 100% by 2045;
  • require El Paso to use available efforts to covert El Paso Electric to municipal ownership; 
  • prohibit the sale or transfer of water for fossil fuel-related activities outside of the city limits;
  • prohibit fees and fines “that limit the purchase, use, or generation of renewable energy;”
  • create the appointed position of Climate Director, who would be charged with fulfilling the amendment’s goals, creating an annual Solar Power Generation Plan, producing a climate impact statement for proposals before the El Paso City Council, and leading a new Climate Department;
  • have the City Manager and Climate Director collaborate on creating climate jobs, defined as jobs that help meet the amendment’s goals, and creating a Climate Disaster Mitigation and Preparedness Plan
  • create a five-member Climate Commission to make legislative recommendations to the El Paso City Council that would advance the amendment’s goals and investigate matters regarding the city’s implementation of the charter amendment.

In July 2022, organizers for Sunrise El Paso and Ground Game Texas submitted 36,360 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. El Paso city officials verified that more than 20,000 valid signatures were submitted on Nov. 11, 2022, and qualified the initiative for the ballot.

Sunrise El Paso said, “We are working to bring green jobs to El Paso, build solar power, conserve water and protect its quality, address pollution head-on in our communities, fight against environmental racism and inequity, encourage a municipalized electric utility, and so much more through this people-led initiative.”

Opponents to the amendment include the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, El Paso Electric, and Borderplex Alliance.

El Paso Electric said, “While we share the same goals of an environmentally sustainable future for our region, we are embedding and evaluating all possible technology and generation to achieve these goals. We believe the (climate charter) proposition is too limited and does not include the wide array of customer solutions and technology to affordably achieve the agreed upon goals.”

The El Paso Chamber said, “Climate change is real, and we are committed to common-sense reforms that push for a comprehensive approach to the matter. However, we must do so in a way that considers the cost to the region – especially to those whose livelihood is dependent upon jobs that would no longer exist under the passage of the proposed amendment.”

Miguel Escoto, an organizer with Sunrise El Paso, said that the amendment would create jobs. Escoto said, “By law, the municipal government will be legally mandated to find climate jobs. This would increase the amount of jobs. It would increase the amount of job security.”

Election day in El Paso is on May 6, 2023. Voters will also decide on 10 other charter amendments.

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