Friday, December 19, 2008

Goldwater Institute: Corporation Commission piles on renewable energy surcharges

by Clint Bolick

Putting the proverbial coal in the Christmas stocking of millions of Arizonans, the state's Corporation Commission this week imposed new surcharges on utility consumers to fund compliance with its sweeping renewable energy regulations.

The Commission more than doubled the surcharge it imposed earlier this year. For businesses already reeling from a struggling economy, the surcharges add as much as $353.78 to monthly utility bills. Residential utility customers will see their bills increase again as well.

Perversely, the Commission granted APS even more than it requested by refusing to roll over $8 million in renewable energy funds the utility company did not use in 2008. APS wanted to roll these funds into next year so they could lower the surcharges at a later date if they were collecting enough. The Commission refused this request.

The Goldwater Institute has filed a Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit, Miller v. Arizona Corporation Commission, challenging the rules as an unconstitutional power grab of the state's energy policy from the legislature. The rules require specific percentages of energy generated from renewable sources with no regard for cost or reliability. The Commission estimates its rules ultimately will add $2.4 billion to utility bills.

The surcharges were adopted by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Kris Mayes, Jeff Hatch-Miller, and Bill Mundell in favor, and Mike Gleason and Gary Pierce opposed. The underlying rules were adopted by an entirely Republican Commission. This year, two Democrats were elected who pledged to expand even more the Commission's regulatory influence. Every day, the stakes for the Institute's lawsuit grow.

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

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