Two state legislators that have sponsored and introduced bills to help Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, recently filed a complaint against the committee working to increase the state’s renewable energy standard – Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona.
Republicans Sen. John Kavanagh and Rep. Vince Leach allege that illegal activities have occurred related to the efforts of Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona to obtain enough signatures to get the renewable energy proposal on the ballot this November. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, the legislators claim the campaign is misleading voters and “making it virtually impossible to evaluate the legality of individuals submitting signatures.”
The Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative is attempting to require APS to source 50% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2030. The current requirement is 15% by 2025.
APS is aggressively opposing the ballot initiative and instead is showing its preference for continued investment in gas plants.
Sen. Kavanagh has sponsored legislation that would place a competing renewable energy proposal titled, “Clean and Affordable Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment” on the ballot that also requires utilities to meet a 50% renewable energy standard but allows utilities to ignore the policy. APS admitted it proposed the measure.
Sen. Steve Farley called the APS/Kavanagh measure, “a cynical maneuver to try to confuse voters at the ballot so that they think this is the real clean energy initiative as opposed to one that’s being run by advocates at the same time.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Leach introduced legislation, which was signed by Governor Ducey last month, that will limit financial penalties for utilities who fail to meet renewable energy standards if voters decide to increase them in November. APS admitted it helped craft this legislation as well: “We proudly support this amendment and proudly worked with Rep. Leach on drafting it,” said Rod Ross, senior government affairs representative for APS.
The parent company of APS, Pinnacle West, is the third highest donor for each of the legislators. Sen. Kavanagh and Rep. Leach have accepted $7,000 and $5,000 from Pinnacle West, respectively.
Furthermore, during the first quarter of this year, both lawmakers have received money from Veridus, a PR firm headed by Matt Benson. Benson is also the spokesperson for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, a campaign funded by APS and Pinnacle West to oppose the 50% renewable energy standard campaign.
If the past is any indication, APS is not afraid to continue spending its money to oppose renewable energy efforts as well as engage in trickery and confusion.
In 2016, APS was the center of its own petition scandal when a rooftop solar industry threatened a ballot initiative. According to the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, a political consulting firm with ties to APS paid Sign Here Petitions to collect survey signatures, but only on the condition that signature gatherers sign a non-compete clause, promising not to work on the pro-solar petition.
In 2014, APS was rumored to have funneled millions of dollars to Save Our Future Now and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. The organizations then spent money to support specific Republican candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulatory body, in order to defeat other GOP candidates who were considered to be pro-solar. APS and Pinnacle West refused to deny that the companies provided the money.
In 2013, APS spent hundreds of thousands of dollars through the 60 Plus Association and Prosper to turn Arizona ratepayers against solar net energy metering. It denied those expenditures before later backpedaling and acknowledging its involvement.
July 10, 2018 Update: This post was updated to reflect the $2,000 contribution Pinnacle West made to Rep. Leach on June 4 – the largest donation the lawmaker received this year. Rep. Leach filed his Q2 2018 campaign finance report on July 9.