ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona GOP lawmakers fast-tracking bill blocking energy standards

Jan 28, 2021, 5:00 PM

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Legislature is fast-tracking a proposed law that would strip state utility regulators of their power to require electric utilities to get more of their power from solar and other clean energy power sources.

But Republican lawmakers who control the Senate and House are not proposing to enact any standards of their own to replace those now being considered by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Instead, GOP lawmakers emboldened by a state Supreme Court decision that called the commission’s powers into question simply will bar any new requirements above the existing standards requiring utilities to get 15% of their power supply from renewable supplies by 2025. The commission has proposed requiring regulated utilities to get half their power from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2035 and 100% from clean energy, including nuclear, by 2050.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who has been critical of the commission’s adoption of renewable energy standards, has backed the effort to block the commission’s power.

“I want to see the Corporation Commission setting rates. And I want to see the state Legislature setting energy policy,” Ducey said during an Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry event on Jan. 8. “And I hope we can straighten that out this legislative session.”

On Wednesday, a Senate committee dominated by Republicans approved the proposal on a 5-4 party-line vote. A House committee approved a mirror proposal on a 6-4 vote Tuesday with no Democratic support. The votes set the identical bills on track to swiftly move to debate and passage and then head to Ducey’s desk.

Democrats railed against the proposal, noting that blocking the commission’s proposal means there will be no mandate to grow renewable power, which is increasingly important in controlling carbon emissions that are blamed for climate change.

“Our job should be to listen to what the people of Arizona want – they are crystal clear on this topic,” Democratic Rep. Aaron Lieberman said at Tuesday’s House hearing. “They don’t get to choose their power company, but they sure want renewable energy and they like a corporation commission that is actually standing up and fighting for them.”

Commissioners adopted the proposed standards on a 4-1 vote in November and can vote on final rules after a public comment period closes. That vote came after an extensive review with hours of hearings and thousands of public comments. Major utilities signed off on the plan.

If the proposal now being debated in the Legislature passes as appears likely, those rules won’t take effect, barring a court fight.

Republican lawmakers have adopted Ducey’s mantra that the commission acted outside its constitutional authority when it enacted the 15% mandate in 2006 and in proposing the new rules.

“It confirms the Corporation Commission’s intended function at inception,” GOP Sen. Sine Kerr said at a hearing Wednesday. “That is, exercising ratemaking authority to protect captive consumers against corporate abuse, while restoring the Legislature’s paramount authority to regulate the public health, safety and welfare as recently affirmed by the Arizona Supreme Court.”

In that unrelated July 2020 Arizona Supreme Court ruling, the high court took pains to decipher the complicated history of legal rulings about the commission’s power. The ruling noted that setting rates was a power granted by the state constitution when the framers created the commission but other authority it held was only with the permission of the Legislature.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Engel said the GOP proposal was twisting the logic of the state Supreme Court ruling because it wasn’t proposing any health and safety standards.

“This is all about pre-empting their permissive authority,” Engel said.

Two corporation commissioners, Democrats Anna Tovar and Sandra Kennedy, presented testimony in oppositon to the plan at the hearings, with Kennedy calling the plan “constitutional overreach.” The Republican who opposed the new energy standards in November, Commissioner Justin Olson, backed the legislative proposal, saying the commission had been overstepping its bounds.

The plan to strip the commission’s power was opposed by environmental groups and some business interests. It received backing from small-government groups such as the Goldwater Institute and the Free Enterpise Club.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, said the proposed law would gut standards that would help Arizonans save money and fight climate change.

“The benefits of clean energy are clear, for our air and water, for our climate and for our economy,” Bahr testified Wednesday. “I will also add they are cheaper consistently than fossil fuels.”

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Jovanni Limon Salas and Diego Ediel Chaparro (Arizona Attorney General's Office Photos)...
KTAR.com

2 men sentenced to prison for drug trafficking in Arizona

Two men were recently sentenced to prison in separate cases for involvement in a drug trafficking organization, the Arizona Attorney General's Office said this week.
1 day ago
(Facebook File Photo/Lake Pleasant Regional Park)...
Associated Press

Woman dies after boating accident at Lake Pleasant

A woman has died after she was critically injured in a boating accident at Lake Pleasant, authorities said Sunday.
1 day ago
(Pexels Photo)...
KTAR.com

Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from May 20-22

An employment report finding the state saw a significant jobs increase last month is among the biggest Arizona stories of the weekend.
1 day ago
(Prescott Regional Airport Photo)...
KTAR.com

Small plane crashes after taking off from airport in Prescott, pilot not injured

A small plane crashed after taking off from the Prescott Regional Airport on Sunday but the pilot was not injured, authorities said.
1 day ago
(File Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey OK’s ban on school COVID-19 vaccines

Arizona's Republican governor has signed legislation that will prevent state health officials from ever adding a COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required school inoculations and bar face mask mandates in any buildings operated by state or local governments.
1 day ago
(Twitter Photo/@PHXFire)...
KTAR.com

Crews battle 4-alarm fire at Phoenix scrapyard early Sunday

Fire crews were battling a four-alarm fire Sunday morning at a local scrapyard in Phoenix, authorities said.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to in April

April brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Suns and Diamondbacks.
...
DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

In Sonoran heat, prevent costly AC repairs with an annual tune-up

As winter has finally passed and the days are becoming warmer, now is a good time to be sure your AC unit is polished and ready to run.
Arizona GOP lawmakers fast-tracking bill blocking energy standards