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Proposed Law Could Let Arizona Utilities Easily Skirt Renewable Energy Requirements

solar facility
Gavin Maxwell/Cronkite News
A solar facility in Tonopah, Arizona.

Arizona utilities could soon be able to more easily skirt renewable energy requirements.

On Wednesday, the Arizona Senate voted in favor of a bill aimed at thwarting a proposed constitutional amendment that would require half of the state’s energy come from renewables by 2030.

Under House Bill 2005, public utilities that violate the state’s renewable energy standard would be subject to a fine of $100 to $5,000 — such a small amount that critics says utilities will ignore the rules altogether.

“The legislation takes us in the wrong direction by eliminating accountability for our regulated utilities,” Democratic Sen. Andrea Dalessandro said.

Opponents argue the last-minute bill is unconstitutional and a preemptive effort to undermine the will of the voters. The campaign, Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, needs to collect more than 225,000 signatures by early July to ammend the constitution.

A spokesperson for Arizona Public Service has openly said the utility helped craft the legislation in response to the renewable energy ballot initiative, which is backed in part by progressive California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen who supports the bill said the ballot measure would jack up the price of power and hurt consumers.

“I am sick and tired of millionaires and billionaires outside this state putting together initiatives, spending billions of dollars, put out ads and 30-second soundbites, where the people aren’t understanding all the ramifications and long term consequences,” Allen said.

The bill passed on party lines and now heads to the Arizona House of Representatives.

Will Stone grew up with the sounds of public radio. As a senior field correspondent, he strives to tell the same kind of powerful stories that got him into the business — whether that means trudging through some distant corner of the Sonoran Desert or uncovering an unknown injustice right down the street. Since joining the KJZZ newsroom in 2015, he has covered political scandals, fights over the future of energy, and efforts to care for some of Arizona’s most vulnerable communities. His pieces have also aired on national programs like Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now and Marketplace. Before coming to KJZZ, he reported for public radio stations in Nevada and Connecticut. Stone received his degree in English literature from Haverford College, where he also wrote about the arts and culture scene in Philadelphia. After graduating, he interned at NPR West in Culver City, California, where he learned from some of the network’s veteran reporters and editors. When he doesn’t have a mic in hand, Stone enjoys climbing mountains, running through his central Phoenix neighborhood and shamelessly promoting his cat, Barry.