Federal Attempts to Influence the Outcome of the June 1976 California Nuclear Referendum

EMD-78-31: Published: Jan 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 27, 1978.

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Attempts to restrict or prohibit construction of new nuclear powerplants through public referenda were on several State ballots during 1976. The first referendum, the California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative, Proposition 15, was voted on and defeated by California citizens by a 2 to 1 vote on June 8, 1976. A review was conducted of information activities of the former Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) before the June 1976 referendum in California.

Prior to the referendum in California, ERDA significantly increased certain public information activities, primarily energy exhibits and publications, as well as speeches about the agency's programs and policies. High-level agency officials intended to present nuclear power in a favorable light, avoiding an objective discussion of its drawbacks. Except for speeches made by San Francisco officials, the San Francisco Operations Office had little or no control over the types of exhibits and publications given them to disseminate. With the exception of the salary and travel expenses of the speakers from the San Francisco office, funding for the agency's increased information activities was provided and administered by the headquarters offices; the San Francisco office had no control over any of the funds. ERDA did not violate any laws in funding the increased activities in California. The agency's actions were not illegal because no Federal statute prohibits Federal agencies from taking actions to influence a State election or referendum.

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