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Corporation Commission on dangerous trajectory

November 8, 2014

When the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the Arizona Corporation Commission’s authority to impose renewable energy standards–at a projected cost to rate-payers of $1.2 billion–we received lots of questions about why we were doing so. After all, the Commission was controlled completely by conservatives, who could be trusted not to over-reach their authority, right?

Funny how political winds shift. Last November, two candidates with a pro-regulatory agenda were elected to the five-member Commission. If the precedent is established that the Commission, rather than the Legislature, may dictate the state’s energy policy, it will be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle, regardless of who sits on the Commission.

Belatedly but commendably, state Representative Lucy Mason is leading an effort to reclaim legislative authority over energy policy and to define “renewable energy” to encompass hydro-generated and nuclear power. All very reasonable.

But it is also provocative enough for one of the new Corporation Commissioners, Paul Newman, to fire off a letter to Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Newman requested that future federal funding for renewable energy should “be appropriated directly to the Arizona Corporation Commission rather than to the executive branch,” because only the Commission can be trusted with renewable energy policy.

Having dispensed with legislative authority over energy policy, why not ditch the executive branch as well? Newman also divulged he is pushing the Commission to increase its already draconian renewable energy requirements, with costs unspecified.

All this raises the stakes for the lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation. If the courts will not constrain a renegade agency to its limited constitutional powers, we all need to hold tightly to our wallets, not to mention our rights.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Goldwater Institute Challenges $48.2 million APS Rate Charge

Goldwater Institute: Miller v. Arizona Corporation Commission

HB 2623: Legislative authority; renewable energy



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