APS-backed group challenges 50% renewables ballot measure in court
- In a lawsuit filed last week, a utility-funded group is alleging more than half the signatures are invalid in a ballot initiative to consider a 50% renewable energy standard in Arizona.
- Arizonans for Affordable Energy (AAE) challenged about 270,000 of the 480,000 signatures collected by supporters of the ballot initiative, contending they are not registered to vote in the state or citing other irregularities with the petition.
- AAE is backed by Pinnacle West, the parent company of Arizona Public Service. Since last year, APS has spent more than $10 million to fight the renewables proposal, including $6.4 million in the last three months.
Renewable portfolio standards (RPS) used to drive the renewable energy market. While wind and solar have become more cost-competitive, some states are still working to expand mandates for more ambitious targets.
Arizona has some of the best solar energy potential in the nation and, while APS invests in the resource, it is vehemently fighting a proposal that would set a 50% renewable energy standard in the state constitution.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge will need to determine if AAE can challenge each signature, or if a random sampling can determine if there are sufficient legitimate signatures for the initiative to appear on the November ballot, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
The clean energy measure needed 225,000 signatures by July 5 to qualify for the November ballot and supporters appeared to score a major victory when they submitted close to half a million. But the AAE lawsuit, filed Thursday, cites numerous issues, including signatures of people not registered to vote in Arizona, unauthorized signature collectors and petitions circulated too early.
Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, a group backed by activist billionaire Tom Steyer to support the initiative, said they are not worried by the challenge.
"We are confident we have more valid signatures than the law requires and regard this lawsuit as foolish,'' a spokesman from the group, Rodd McLeod, told Capital News Service.
Steyer's super PAC, NextGen America, is also backing RPS ballot initiatives in Nevada and Michigan.
The ballot initiative fight has drawn significant funding from APS and Pinnacle West. Though officials will not confirm how much, a report by Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) revealed the utilities funneled nearly $11 million through two political action committees to oppose the initiative.
Locally, ABC 15 reported some of the funding went to a firm that offered petition collectors for the ballot initiative thousands of dollars to stop signing on new voters for the measure.
- Capitol Media Services Most signatures on Arizona clean energy petition invalid, opposition attorney tells court
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