Alongside Geroge McGovern and Hubert Humphrey on the June 6th California Primary ballot is Proposition 9, an anti-pollution measure that has sparked a pot-boiling assault by big business lobbyists.
Known as the Clean Environment Act, Proposition 9 qualified for the ballot when the People’s Lobby, an army of volunteer citizens, collected the signatures of more than half-a-million registered voters. Proposition 9 reflects the widespread revulsion of Californians to the growing contamination of the air, land and water. by industrial, utility and motor vehicle pollutants. They watch the soothing environmental ads by the companies as they see and read about the destruction of health and property by those companies’ chemical, gaseous and particulate wastes. They listen to the assurances of politicians in the legislature and on state and local pollution control boards, while nonenforcement, variances on request, and conflicts of interest reach epidemic proportions.
Bypassing the legislature and the administrative boards, Proposition 9, as permitted by California law, asks the voter directly to enact into law about a dozen measures. These include bans on new offshore oil drilling; requirements for more public disclosure of records by pollution control agencies; curbs On conflict-of-interest on these boards; restricts on certain persistent pesticides; imposition of a five-year moratorium on new atomic fission power plants; installation of more effective sanctions on violators; a broadening of citizen class-action suits against polluters; and adequate controls on the harmful contents of gasoline.
In opposition to these proposals are arrayed the giants of California industry and commerce. A sample includes Pacific Gas 8 and Electric, du Pont, General Electric, Crocker National Bank, steel, oil, auto, railroad and telephoned companies. With more than $1,000,000 in contributions, the well-known San Francisco political public relations-firm of Whitaker and Barter la masterminding a statewide campaign against Proposition 9. As it has done so often in the past, when citizen efforts have threatened the status quo, the firm has marshaled all the traditional scare tactics about job loses and the imperiled economy. These supposed consequences of Proposition 9 are described in Ark pamphlets, in radio and TV advertisements and on billboard.
The facts are not what Whitaker and Baxter like to discuss. As a multiple form of devastation, pollutants not only make major contribution to human disease and promote ha casualties; they also destroy or devalue property, waste, millions of dollars in crop losses, and make other corrosive impacts on California’s economy from damaging machines to impairing recreation. Also on the increase are occupational diseases in factories and on farms where workers are daily exposed to contaminants. The situation is getting worse, not better, as the smog chases more Californians further and further from the cities; into the mountains for temporary relief.
Should Proposition 9 manage to pass or to win a substantial vote in spite of the enormous opposition of business and government which it is designed to tame and discipline, the vote will be heard around the country. For it would be a signal to those in power that people are no longer going to meekly swallow the fakery that keeps the available technology suppressed and limits the innovative capability that could reduce or prevent the deadly pollution that plagues America and more and more of the rest of the world.
Polluting industries always complain about costs of pollution control on their profit levels. Their victims are now asking about the cost of not preventing pollution–on health, safety and on-the quality of life. Proposition 9 puts the burden of action on principal polluters–where it belongs.