The Cost to Our Future: Examining the High Price Tag of the Climate Charter

You might have heard about Proposition K, or the “Climate Change and Climate Justice” Charter Amendment up on the ballot in May 2023. El Paso Association of Contractors (EPAC) is committed to helping contractors in our region thrive, and to supporting the interests and creation of jobs for our industry.

So what is this legislation, and how could it negatively impact El Paso’s construction industry?

Unpacking El Paso’s expensive energy plan

A special election on May 6th, 2023 will let El Pasoans decide whether or not to adopt an amendment to the city charter setting aggressive goals for renewable energy. The adoption of the “Climate Change Amendment” would make the control of carbon emissions a fundamental factor in the decisions made by the city going forward.

This initiative is part of a nation-wide push to bring the climate legislation battle to local governments — moving the economy of the Borderland away from fossil fuels. Led locally by Sunrise El Paso and activist Miguel Escoto (funded by the Washington, D.C. based nonprofit group Earthworks), the amendment is set to be a litmus test for other initiatives across the country.

As the El Paso Association of Contractors, we’re very concerned about how this legislation could harm our industry.

Proposition K will compel El Paso to use “all available resources and authority” to execute three central objectives:

  1. Reducing the Sun City’s contributions to climate change
  2. Investing in “an environmentally sustainable future”
  3. Advancing “the cause of climate justice”

This legislation would create a non-elected climate department, headed by a climate director, to implement the charter’s policies.

Actions as a result of adopting Proposition K include:

  • Converting El Paso Electric to municipal ownership (an estimated 10-20 billion dollar purchase by El Paso taxpayers)
  • Banning the use of city water for use in the fossil fuel industry outside city limits
  • Transitioning to 80% clean renewable energy by 2030 — and 100% by 2045

We at the El Paso Association of Contractors echo the sentiments expressed by The El Paso Chamber in opposition to the Climate Charter: “[we believe] wholeheartedly that action must be taken to move toward a sustainable future. However, we cannot, in good conscience, support an amendment that has the potential to put thousands of El Pasoans at risk of losing their jobs and livelihoods.”

Ambiguous language and unclear goals

Part of what makes Proposition K problematic is its vague and ambiguous language. 

The charter doesn’t clearly define “a climate emergency,” nor does it specify exactly what it will do to “combat climate change” when such an emergency arises.

Is an emergency 30 days without rain? 20 days above 100℉? A sub-zero freeze? A 50 year rainstorm?

Without clear definitions, the policy could open the door to any number of bans, restrictions, or tax burdens on El Paso’s businesses and residents.

The Climate Charter uses the term “goals” in reference to the actions to be taken. Miguel Escoto, one of the authors of the charter explains that “This is not a rigid document.” 

But the ambiguous language seems irresponsible when it could lead to such sweeping, broad effects on El Paso’s businesses and residents.


But… we’re already on track!

At the El Paso Association of Contractors, we’re committed to making the future better for the planet and for local businesses. 

The truth of the matter is that the Borderland has already been working toward the sustainable use of clean energy — without the vague and detrimental effects on our economy by the Climate Charter. 

The Palo Verde Generating Station in Arizona has been the largest green energy producer in the US for nearly 30 years — and provides El Paso (and the surrounding areas) with 45% of their electricity.

El Paso Electric is on track to meet 90% of the climate goals set forth in the charter.

  • They plan to have reduced carbon emissions by 80% in 2035, and be 100% decarbonized by 2045
  • Expanding the use of affordable solar energy 
  • Implementing the use of electric vehicles (EV) in their fleet

However, the Climate Charter doesn’t allow the green energy from Palo Verde to help carry the energy load. It specifies that 80% of El Paso’s electricity must come from much less reliable wind, hydro, or solar power by 2030. And if Proposition K is approved, all of our energy will need to come from these sources by 2045. 

Consider this comparison of the Climate Charter to what’s already being accomplished by El Paso’s energy community.

Climate CharterEl Paso Electric’s Current Progress
80% clean renewable energy by 203080% clean renewable energy by 2035
100% clean renewable energy by 2045100% decarbonized by 2045
Creation of an annual Solar Power Generation Plan for the City of El Paso and to require the City Manager to establish and maintain policies that encourage the development of rooftop solar power generation capacity within the City of El Paso using existing City facilities and require both new buildings and retrofitted buildings to include solar power generation capacity;Already expanding affordable and accessible solar power to businesses and homes
Requires the City of El Paso (aka taxpayers) to purchase El Paso Electric for multiple billions dollarsPrivate ownership by El Paso Electric
Installs bureaucratic oversight, and puts climate change in the hands of unelected officialsEl Paso Electric is accountable to and supported by its customers

As you can see, most of the goals of the Climate Charter are already in progress. 

What’s added is (unelected) bureaucratic oversight with vague (potentially broad) powers, less reliable energy sources — and El Paso’s taxpayers left to foot a multi-billion dollar bill.

This is why we at the El Paso Association of Contractors believe that the Climate Charter is not in the best interest of the Sun City.

Follow the money

If the Climate Charter doesn’t really seem to offer much that El Paso isn’t already achieving, why is it on our ballot?

It’s because it’s being championed and funded by outside influences who don’t necessarily have El Paso’s best interests in mind.

“If Proposition K passes, your electricity bill is going to rise,” explains Congressman Tony Gonzales. “What is happening is you got outside groups that are parachuting in from Austin, parachuting into El Paso and they are trying to put their policies, their politics on us.” 

These policies that would change our daily lives are heavily backed and funded by people outside El Paso — from Austin to Washington D.C.

The real cost of the climate charter

If Proposition K passes, the cost to El Paso’s residents and businesses will be truly immeasurable.

  • Increased taxes to pay for the purchase of El Paso Electric and converting it to a bureaucratically run organization
  • The potential loss of 170,000 jobs (as quoted by El Paso’s Chamber of Commerce)
  • A potential $8 billion in lost workers’ earnings
  • 72% decrease in energy supply by 2045
  • Stunting the growth of the local economy
  • Putting unspecified powers into the hands of unelected officials

But the Climate Charter is supposed to create jobs, right?

Proponents of the amendment claim that it will create jobs — not harm the economy. The Climate Charter stipulates that the city must focus on “the creation of an annual goal for climate jobs” and adopt and implement a policy that “will transfer current City employees to climate work.” 

However, it’s unclear how this is to be accomplished.

About a year ago, taxpayers in San Antonio, Texas, paid $200 million to fund a jobs program. A year later, the City had placed only 84 employees (at the time of writing).

  • How will actual jobs be created?
  • Who will meet the qualifications for these jobs?
  • How much will it cost to train current City employees in “climate work?” And what IS “climate work?”
  • Will moving employees result in staffing shortages elsewhere?

There is no clear path for the implementation of this goal, and no clear answer to the questions about how it will be accomplished.

As the El Paso Association of Contractors, we’re concerned about the actual implementation of the Climate Charter. Although things may look good “on paper”— good intentions without a real-world assessment of the effects on real people and businesses is a bad idea. 

The El Paso Chamber commissioned Idaho-based economic analyst Brian Points to evaluate the Climate Charter’s real-world applications. Point calls the Charter “dramatic and extreme,” and interprets the amendment’s language to be a “prohibition of fossil fuels.” As Points puts it, 

“It’s a bad idea to base policy on slogans and aspirations.”

How could this affect the construction industry?

It’s no secret that we at the El Paso Association of Contractors are advocates for local contractors, and believe in the importance of keeping work local.

In fact, EPAC’s main focus (and the largest reason for our growing membership) is to support El Paso contractors.

Aside from the general (negative) impact on El Paso’s economy, the Climate Charter could have devastating effects on the construction industry. 

In addition to a Climate Director, the Charter specifies the creation of a City Council-appointed nine member council with “recommending and investigating” powers to “contractors who are able to advance the City’s climate policy.” 

If this “council” deems local contractors not “green” enough, this could have negative effects on our local economy.

Many of our members are already working toward implementing renewable energy goals for their businesses. However, It’s not a stretch to see how this could take jobs away from local contractors who aren’t able to compete with outside companies.

Team job of teamwork with the El Paso Association of Contractors.

What can you do to oppose Proposition K?

First and foremost, get out and vote! Early voting will take place from April 24 to May 2, 2023 — and Election Day is May 6, 2023.

Make sure your organizations get out and vote.

And use your influence to help others understand the real-world effects that this vaguely-worded, rushed, and unrealistic amendment could have on El Pasoans.

At the El Paso Association of Contractors, we want to see a bright, sustainable, prosperous future for our community. Together, we can stop Proposition K from becoming law and harming El Pasoans and the Borderland’s construction industry. 


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