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GOP lawmakers aim for Arizona renewable energy standards

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PHOENIX (AP) – As states in the western United States step up their demand for renewable energy, Arizona was driven by fierce resistance from the Republican governor և the GOP-dominated legislature, which seeks to expose elected utility regulators to one of the nation’s richest states. their power to set energy policy.

Utilities are on track to meet Arizona’s 15% renewable energy mandate by 2024. Environmentalists worry that progress will stall if power companies do not have to continue to install green technology at a time when Arizona is facing the worst of climate change.

“Why does the legislature want to prevent something that is so obviously good for our economy – it benefits the climate as much as it does the air quality, it saves water?” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Arizona.

The Arizona Legislature passed the bill as the sole energy policy authority, quickly clearing the House before taking a seat in the Senate. The legislators are still sitting, it can get a new life at any moment.

Republican lawmakers who support the move say it is more appropriate for the 90 members of the legislature to set energy policy than the five members of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Some question the reason for leaving fossil fuels, saying such mandates lead to higher utility bills.

“The legislature is the best place to set energy policy, thanks to the wider representation of our people, our discussion process is much more transparent,” said Republican Sen. Cine Kerr, who sponsored one of the two bills to delegate power to lawmakers.

“Whoever has the authority, utilities need to have the flexibility to do what they do best, which is to provide all of Arizona energy without costly, restrictive mandates that take certain energy sources out of the mix,” he said. Kerr.

Critics argue that the state constitution accuses the Arizona Corporation Commission of regulating utilities, which consists of elected officials deeply involved in energy matters. Energy standards are more commonly passed by the state legislature, but advocates for renewables say several states like Arizona have chosen regulators.

Arizona was the earliest recipient of renewable energy mandates in 2006, when it set its 15% target. It is then surpassed by many other Western states that have adopted more aggressive standards. California, New Jersey, Colorado, New Mexico, all led by Democrats, have set even stricter targets for renewables in the coming years, with the goal of achieving 100% carbon-free energy.

Arizona voters hand Democrats victory in US presidential election 2020 In the elections, however, the Republicans were kept in power in the legislature and in many state offices.

The GOP also went ahead of the Arizona Corporation Commission, or smaller than before the election. Still under Republican control, the commission voted 4-1 late last year to formally adopt a new energy standard that would require utilities to cut carbon emissions in half by 2032 and eliminate it by 2050.

The rules also require utilities to store energy, such as batteries, and take stronger energy-saving measures, such as smarter temperatures. The final vote on the proposed mandate may take place in April.

The legislative impetus for the energy policy goes back to a recent Arizona Supreme Court ruling in no case that judges challenged the lower court’s 10-year-old ruling, saying the corporation commission has absolute authority to set energy standards. Some lawmakers are eager to examine it, believing that the court can decide that the legislature can replace the commission if it so wishes.

“For me, most of it is about the legislature, that they are the only branch of government,” said John John Onson, the case manager at Western Resource Advocates.

Lawmakers have a history of expanding their power where they can. Over the past decade, the legislature has voted to ban cities and counties from destroying confiscated weapons, banning plastic bags or regulating Airbnb rentals. It also created the right for any legislator to initiate a legal review of local law with the threat of severe financial sanctions if it turns out that local policy contradicts legislative policy.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has criticized the Corporation Commission’s work on renewable energy policy, saying it is out of place.

“I want to see the Commission of Corporations set interest rates. “And I want to see the state legislature set the energy policy,” Ducey told the Arizona Chamber of Commerce on January 8. “And I hope we can rectify this legislature.”

Legislation supporting this goal became entangled in the Senate when Republican Sen. Paul Boyer expressed concern about energy security if the legislature had part-time oversight.

Against all Democrats, with a very small majority of votes, Boyer’s opposition would be enough to overthrow the bill.

After being publicly agnostic, the state’s largest utility service opposed this month’s offer. Arizona Public Service is one of the most influential actors in public policy;

APS և Tucson Electric Power, the other major private enterprise in the state, supports the proposed renewable energy rules և and has committed to significantly reducing their carbon emissions. But environmental groups are concerned that the obligation may be further weakened without a state mandate.

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