11/01/2010 01:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Chevron Spending $4 million on Prop 26, Prop 23's Stealthier Twin

Co-authored by Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International

Chevron CEO John Watson recently insisted his company is neutral on California Proposition 23, even though the so-called Dirty Energy Proposition seems like such a good fit. Chevron's money may be on a different horse, but the company is still in the same race to beat back environmental regulations and protect dirty energy profits.

Does Chevron think we're stupid? We're not, and we know that Californians aren't either. We see through the company's manipulative political strategy, which is just like its new cynical ad campaign.

This election season, a large chunk of Chevron's political spending is going to Prop 26 - the stealthy version of Prop 23. In fact, Chevron is the largest supporter of Prop 26, to the tune of $4 million, according to new research by Oil Change International.

Prop 26 would make it much harder - perhaps impossible, for all intents and purposes - for California's state and local governments to pass new fees to pay for the costs associated with dirty and harmful businesses, which is the type of business Chevron runs. Currently we have a system where fees are levied against oil refineries, for instance, and used to pay for the environmental damage caused by such a business's operations. Local funding for public safety, hazardous waste removal, and traffic management would all be endangered.

If Prop 26 passes, all of these fees would be reclassified as taxes and require a two-thirds supermajority of votes to pass, rather than the simple majority that is currently required. And as we all know, a supermajority vote is a very high bar: there are simply too many ways that giant corporations can coerce lawmakers into voting against things that harm their record profits no matter how desperately we may be need to preserve things like clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.

Whereas Prop 23 and its support from the billionaire oilmen Koch brothers and Texas-based oil companies Valero and Tesoro has received a lot of attention, the complexity and relative obscurity of Prop 26 has allowed Chevron's stealth attack against California's environmental laws to go largely unnoticed, which is no doubt how the company would like it. As would Chevron's Big Oil cronies Shell ($200,000) and ConocoPhillips ($525,000), plus many of the other usual suspects, like PG&E ($603,000), Philip Morris/Altria ($3,350,000), Anheuser-Busch ($1,000,000) and the California Chamber of Commerce (which has given $3,587,323 through its California Business PAC).

If you want to see how much your least-favorite corporate polluter has given to Props 23 and 26, check out Oil Change International's handy Dirty Energy Money tracking tools.

Then let's all go out and vote against Props 23 and 26 to make sure these companies have spent their dirty money in vain.