ORIGINAL REPORTING: Arizona Climate Deniers Using The Law
Arizona showdown: Lawmakers face regulators in fight over zero-emissions mandate; Conservatives say regulator's proposed zero-carbon mandate oversteps its constitutional authority while defenders say the legal debate is an excuse to impede the state's climate fight.
Herman K. Trabish, Feb. 10, 2021 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: After this story ran, the legislature took control away from the commission and essentially stopped the zero-emissions initiative.
Controversial proposed Arizona legislation would impose limits on the authority of the state's elected utility regulators and make their recent groundbreaking zero-emissions mandate unconstitutional.
Senate Bill 1175 expresses longstanding concerns from some lawmakers regarding overreach by the elected Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), stakeholders agreed. But those concerns were aggravated by the ACC's November approval of draft energy rules that included a zero emissions by 2050 mandate for electric utilities in the state, seen by some as an attempt to reverse the 2018 defeat of Proposition 127 and its 50% renewables by 2030 mandate.
Legislators are following Republican Gov. Doug Ducey's lead in attempting to amend Arizona law and prevent ACC from using its constitutional power to set "critical energy generation" policy. "I want to see the corporation commission setting rates and the legislature setting energy policy and I hope that will be straightened out in this session," Ducey told the Arizona Chamber of Commerce Jan. 15.
The ACC voted 4-1 Nov. 13 to approve its draft rules. Three Republicans and one Democrats voted in favor, with only Republican Commissioner Justin Olson voting against. But the debate over SB 1175 has turned highly partisan, and opponents believe its inception was driven largely by that November vote.
The legislation "seems to be about the clean energy rules and not the constitutional issue because it is suspiciously retroactive to June 30, just before ACC staff filed the rules in July," said Democratic Sen. Kirsten Engel, who is leading opposition to the legislation. "And I have not been impressed by Republican bill supporters' constitutional arguments, which seem really about opposition to the clean energy rules."
The 2050 mandate can grow Arizona's economy and jobs, many in the business community say, but advocates for SB 1175 say the rules could raise electricity rates. The bill debate, however, centers on interpretations of constitutional law, and the final word may come from Arizona's Supreme Court after a long legal battle, both sides acknowledged… click here for more