Arizona Corporation Commission Kills Energy Rules
Eliminates Clean Energy Standards, Fails to Pass Anything
Phoenix, AZ – On Wednesday, following nearly three years of workshops, public meetings, and thousands of supportive comments, including the support of both small and large businesses, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) rejected an energy rules package after it was gutted by an amendment from Commissioner Justin Olson (R) to eliminate the carbon-free, energy efficiency, and storage requirements and making them optional.
The poison pill amendment was supported by Chairwoman Lea Márquez-Peterson (R) and Commissioner Jim O’Connor (R) thus killing the widely supported rules proposal in a 2-3 vote of opposition. After eviscerating the rules, Commissioner Olson went on to vote no on the weakened rule package. Commissioner Sandra Kennedy (D) and Commissioner Anna Tovar (D) voted no on the final proposal after working to fend off the weakening amendments.
“The failure of the Arizona Corporation Commission to adopt a robust energy rule is a huge setback for clean energy and holding utilities accountable for their climate-harming pollution. Notable is the lack of leadership by Chairwoman Márquez-Peterson, who had the opportunity to lead the Commission in adopting strong clean energy rules, but instead did an about face on limiting carbon emissions and came away with absolutely nothing — nothing to protect our health, conserve water, and give us cleaner air; nothing to help provide additional jobs and reduce carbon emissions. Nothing to put Arizona on track for a clean energy future,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Arizonans have repeatedly and frequently voiced their support for transitioning away from fossil fuels that harm our health and the climate to a clean, and sustainable energy system, including in communities most impacted by coal plants and their pollution. The Commission just did not listen.”
Community groups, environmental organizations, local governments, big and small businesses, faith leaders, and consumer advocates had all repeatedly expressed support for the Clean Energy Rules as originally drafted and were disappointed the Commission could not bring them across the finish line.
“The ultimate question is ‘What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?’ More than 125 Arizona clergy and faith leaders have gone on record to affirm that ‘this is the time to take a stand, kick our addictions to fossil fuels and make a bold move to clean energy,’ said Rev. Doug Bland, Arizona Interfaith Power & Light. “We believe that establishing bold energy rules is one important way we can love our neighbors. Sadly, the AZ Corporation Commission has not advanced the bold energy rules we had anticipated.”
Communities of color and Indigenous nations, like the Navajo and Hopi, have put up with decades of pollution and contamination to power cities across the West, and the utilities, which profited as a result, have a responsibility to support a just and equitable transition to clean energy to help protect Arizona’s most vulnerable communities from unfair environmental and economic challenges. The Clean Energy Rules, as originally drafted, would have ensured favorable siting for renewable energy resources in these coal-impacted communities.
“For some communities, the energy and water crisis is now. For nearly 50 years, communities in northeast Arizona, where the only coal mines in Arizona exist, have powered the rest of the state with cheap power and water. Because of the way the contracts were drawn up by utilities back then, communities near the power plants could not develop their water until the power plant went away,” said Nicole Horseherder, executive director of Tó Nizhóní Ání. “Today, our aquifers have been severely drawn down, and families continue to grapple with water availability and accessibility. Our communities need decisive action and leadership on the energy rules, but we did not get that today.”
“Yesterday’s decision was a sad day for all Arizonans, and we will pay for it through our wallets. The Commission failed to advance key consumer protections to eliminate energy waste and give a much needed boost to energy saving programs that make everyone’s bills more affordable,” said Ellen Zuckerman, Utility Program Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “Energy efficiency is the cheapest way for Arizona to meet its energy needs. By eliminating waste, we reduce the need to generate power from more expensive options while supporting more jobs, cleaner air and water, healthier families, and more affordable electricity. After years of hard work, these outcomes now hang in the balance.”
“The ACC missed an opportunity to drive innovation in battery storage and further rooftop solar’s promise for Arizona families and businesses,” said Bret Fanshaw, Arizona Program Director with Solar United Neighbors. “Instead, they turned the Energy rules into a hollowed-out shell. The Commission’s failure to keep these rules intact makes this a dark day for clean energy in our state.”
“The final rules put to a vote did not reflect the direction expressed overwhelmingly by the public to create a 100% clean energy future for Arizona. The watered-down proposal was insufficient to meet the urgency of the climate crisis, attract new business to Arizona and protect vulnerable communities. This is delay but not defeat; we will keep fighting for a brighter future for all Arizonans,” said Ronny Sandoval, Regulatory Director, Interior West for Vote Solar.
The original rules would have saved ratepayers dollars and provided enormous economic benefits. Business leaders spoke in support of the rules without substantial amendments, recognizing their value for Arizona’s economy. In January, Stategen released a report that found that adopting the Clean Energy Rules without these weakening amendments would not only significantly reduce carbon emissions to address the climate crisis, but also create an economic windfall of $2 billion for Arizona.