Update, 12 a.m.: The Sacramento Bee has called a victory for Prop. 26. More details after the jump.

While environmentalists were hitting California voters over the head with their big-oil-bashing 'No' on Prop. 23 campaign this election season, Prop. 26 was laying low. Now, though the night is young, it looks like the darker-sister initiative might come out of the election alive.

The Secretary of State's current ballot-measure results — though they're only at 18.7 percent reporting — show Prop. 26 surging ahead at 56.4 percent 'Yes' to 43.6 percent 'No.'

As the Weekly reported earlier today, the 'Yes' on Prop. 26 campaign was gifted $4 million by Chevron and $3 million by the American Beverage Association, money that went to good use on a deceptive “greedy politicians want your money” angle.

In truth, Prop. 26 has more to do with easing the punishment on businesses who cause damage to the environment or endanger the public.

Joe Lyou, executive director of Los Angeles-based Coalition for Clean Air, put it simply:

“Proposition 26 is in some ways more important than Prop. 23,” he said. “Prop. 26 could make it almost impossible for regulatory agencies to collect fees.”

The fees, which Prop. 26 supporters hope to instead label “taxes” so they'll be harder to pass through California State Legislature (by requiring a 2/3 majority), provide major funding for environmental and public-health agencies like Lyou's. These orgs are the ones responsible for cleaning up after toxic spills and other industry-caused damage.

Even the normally liberal Los Angeles County is voting Prop. 26 in at a similar rate.

It's a major upset — by using vague, misleading language and hiding behind Prop. 23, big oil managed to avoid scathing press and loud protesters, finally scoring themselves a chance for a break from government regulations.

Update: Though the margin between 'Yes' and 'No' is shrinking as more California precincts turn in their votes, Prop. 26 is holding on for dear life at 54.5 percent 'Yes' and 45.5 percent 'No.' It's enough for both the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times to call it a win.

The Prop. 23 camp might want to tone down the victory dance right about now.

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