The Arizona Corporation Commission voted 2-3 on Wednesday, May 5 to reject an energy rules package—which included clean energy standards, provisions to promote distributed storage, and more transparent and accountable planning—after it was eviscerated by an amendment introduced by Commissioner Justin Olson (R) which made optional the carbon-free, energy efficiency and storage requirements.
This gutting amendment was supported by Chairwoman Lea Márquez-Peterson (R) and Commissioner Jim O’Connor (R). Commissioner Sandra Kennedy (D) and Commissioner Anna Tovar (D) voted no on the final rules proposal after an ultimately futile attempt to strike down the weakening amendments.
This failure to adopt robust energy rules by the Arizona Corporation Commission comes as a huge disappointment, especially to young Arizonians who are worried about their future as utilities aren’t held accountable for their climate-harming pollution. Additionally, communities of color and Indigenous nations have dealt with decades of pollution and contamination to power cities across the west, and utility companies continue to profit as a result of this degradation. The Clean Energy Rules would have required utility companies support for a just and equitable transition and ensured favorable siting for renewable energy resources in these coal-impacted communities.
The opposition argument to the original rules rested mainly in the idea that if adopted, it would negatively impact ratepayers financially. However, ratepayers would have actually saved money and gained enormous economic benefits. A report released by Strategen in January found that adopting the rules without the gutting amendments would create an economic windfall of $2B for Arizona, all while significantly reducing carbon emissions to address the climate crisis.
The energy rules were a product of nearly three years of public meetings, workshops, and numerous supportive comments from community groups, environmental organizations, local governments, big and small businesses and consumer advocates. It’s clear that Arizonians are in support of a transition away from fossil fuels to a clean and sustainable energy system which protects communities most impacted by pollution from coal plants and creates jobs in the process. The majority of the Commission simply did not take the voices and concerns of Arizonians into consideration. In particular, Chairwoman Márquez-Peterson’s absence of leadership is especially saddening as she had the opportunity to enact strong clean energy rules; however, the meeting ended with absolutely nothing enacted to protect our health, air, or water.
-Sara Kubisty, ASA Climate Justice Director
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