(Reuters) - In addition to picking the next U.S. president on Tuesday, voters in four states will decide on ballot initiatives related to energy and the environment.
The results of the initiatives could offer a gauge of Americans' feelings about managing carbon dioxide emissions, regulating solar power, and handling local opposition to hydraulic fracturing.
Here are descriptions of the various initiatives:
WASHINGTON STATE CARBON TAX
Washington state voters will decide whether to adopt a measure to create the country's first carbon tax. Initiative 732 would slap a $15 price tag on a ton of carbon for utilities and refiners in 2017, with the price rising gradually each year until it reaches $100. The tax would be revenue neutral: money raised would replace old revenue from sales and business taxes.
Supporters say the tax would bring down emissions without burdening state residents. But the measure has brought together unlikely allies from industry groups who say it would hurt businesses' bottom lines and environmental organizations like the Sierra Club who say it does not create new revenue to invest in clean energy and mass transit. Other groups argue it could hurt lower-income communities.
Florida's electric utilities have sponsored a measure that could affect how the state regulates private use of solar energy. A confusingly worded Amendment 1 would alter the state's constitution to protect the right to own or lease solar equipment, while also ensuring that electricity consumers who do not use solar energy "are not required to subsidize the costs of back-up power and electric grid access to those who do."
Supporters say it enshrines the rights of solar users, but opponents say it is a sneaky way of letting the state block 'net metering,' in which a solar user can sell unused energy on the grid at market value. Floridians for Solar Choice say the measure would "choke off" the state's nascent rooftop solar industry.
Colorado voters will vote on a measure that would make it harder to change the state's constitution by requiring broad support across all state districts for signatories to petitions and a higher percentage threshold to be approved.
Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, an oil and gas drilling technique they say causes water pollution, claim Amendment 71 would make it harder for local communities to block fracking projects.
The amendment was written and funded by oil and gas industry groups but does not directly address the controversial practice. Colorado is one of several U.S. states that has seen a surge in fracking in recent years. Scores of towns across the country, including several in Colorado, have tried to ban it.
NEVADA'S ENERGY CHOICE INITIATIVE
Nevada voters will decide whether to open up the state's energy market to competition by giving consumers the option to decide where they buy their power.
The measure comes after state regulators last year approved a rate increase for customers with rooftop solar panels, causing solar companies to lay off workers. Currently, Nevada law allows investor-owned utility companies to be monopolies in their service territories.
Supported by environmentalists as well as electric carmaker Tesla, MGM Resorts and other companies, the measure would let consumers choose an energy provider and sell the solar electricity they generate themselves. Big companies that want to leave the grid can do so by paying hefty penalties to state regulators.
If passed, the measure would direct the Nevada Legislature to pass legislation to create an open, competitive electricity market by mid-2023.
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)