By Joseph Valenzuela and Justin Gibson
As El Paso business owners, we have a unique perspective on the El Paso Climate Charter – on the ballot as Proposition K – which El Pasoans will vote on May 6. We are part of the local economy and provide job opportunities for our community.
That’s why we support the passage of Proposition K, a people-driven measure that invests in our community and takes action on the climate at the local level. The charter contains two critical pro-business provisions – one to safeguard our water and the other to give El Pasoans a more significant say in how we power our city and how much we pay for it.
As brewery and pub owners, we are in an industry directly threatened by the changing climate.
Even if beer isn’t your preferred drink, you know this much: there is no beer without water. Worse still, there is no El Paso without water.
El Paso is in the middle of the desert and has long been a place where water is precious. Now climate change is making matters worse, pushing the limits of how far we can stretch this essential resource for this fast-growing city.
Our region has experienced frequent droughts, and one of the area’s water sources, the Rio Grande, no longer lives up to its name. The charter recognizes El Paso must conserve water to meet the community’s needs. It includes a conservation provision to stop water sales to fossil fuel operations outside city limits. We can no longer afford to allocate water to outsider corporations whose incentive is profit and whose practices helped endanger our water supply in the first place.
Would you rather export our water out of the city to be used by polluting fossil fuel interests or prioritize the needs of residents and local businesses?
Anyone who runs a business will tell you that costs are often the difference between profit and loss. We have to be conscious of our bills. There is no more important bill we pay than the one we get from El Paso Electric.
El Paso is one of the few unlucky cities in Texas to have neither a choice in where it gets its electricity nor any democratic control of its monopoly provider. El Paso Electric is owned by outside investors whose profit interests, not those of people, may guide how the utility operates.
The proposed charter can put us on a path to changing this situation with a directive to study the process of bringing the utility under the city’s control. El Paso Electric has made minimal investments in affordable wind and solar energy, instead of building more fossil fuel generation. It has even enacted rates and fees that discourage El Pasoans from using solar at their homes and businesses.
Prop K creates a path for gaining democratic control of our electric service so that we can have a say in our energy sources and our rates. That’s a benefit to all El Paso residents and businesses. The charter is also flexible enough that if the city decides that gaining control over the utility would be too costly, it is not forced to continue down that path. The charter provides a vision with flexibility.
While there has been plenty of fear mongering about what passing the charter would mean for the local economy, our response is that it can result in a net positive for job creation. As the state with the most solar and wind potential, Texas has everything to gain by embracing the transition to clean energy. The wind, solar, battery storage and energy efficiency sectors already employ over 200,000 people in Texas, with lots more jobs on the way.
Let’s also not forget how the changing climate can kill economic growth. No company wants to operate without a reliable water supply for its business operations and workers or in a place where high energy prices are a blow to the bottom line. There is no bigger job killer than a runaway changing climate that makes entire areas unlivable and less affordable.
The El Paso Climate Charter is a measure to prioritize our community. Climate change is happening now and getting worse. No denial or misleading studies will change this reality. Passing Prop K is the first step to taking control of the situation at the local level.
Protecting our community is something that we can all raise a glass to. Cheers to the climate charter.
Joseph Valenzuela is the owner of The Hoppy Monk and Justin Gibson owns Aurellia’s Bottle Shop & Brewhouse.
Disclosure: The Hoppy Monk is a financial supporter of El Paso Matters. Financial supporters play no role in El Paso Matters’ journalism.