Imagine the California Legislature trying to close down Hollywood.
Or the New York Legislature sticking it to book publishers.
Or the Kentucky Legislature telling thoroughbred horse breeders to get lost.
State legislators usually make nice with industries that bring jobs and money to their states. Someone should tell that to the ideologues in the Arizona Legislature.
The state House seriously considered a bill that would have yanked away the welcome mat for the state's fledgling solar industry, less than a year after enactment of legislation creating tax incentives for solar manufacturers. After an outcry from renewable energy developers, manufacturers, utilities, citizens' groups, economic development officials, and Arizona's major newspapers, the bill was pulled on Friday.
You would think that legislators serving a state that is bleeding jobs would avoid playing ideology and turf battle games that would threaten its attractiveness to an industry tailor-made for their state. You would be wrong.
HB 2701 would have overturned the Arizona Corporation Commission's 2006 renewable energy standard requiring utilities to source 15 percent of their electric power from solar and other renewables by 2025.
The bill would have replaced the directive with an alternative energy standard allowing utilities to comply with nuclear and hydro power. Essentially, that provision would have strangled the state's solar industry in its cradle, since Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, already obtains a significant percentage of its energy from the Palo Verde nuclear complex.
The bill's supporters said that renewables development should be left up to the market. Nice in theory, but no energy technology has developed free of government involvement - not renewables, not coal, and certainly not nuclear or hydro. Ideological litmus tests don't help at a time when the economy is hurting and there is a national security imperative for diversifying our energy choices.
Bill supporters also argued that the Legislature should make energy policy. The breast-beating about democracy doesn't wash. Arizona Corporation Commissioners are elected also - plus they have the expertise and staff to make intelligent policy in a technically complex area.
Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes, a Republican, said she worries about Arizona acquiring a wing-nutty image. As she told the Arizona Daily Star: "I got a phone call from a Wall Street analyst this morning who wanted to know what on earth is going on in Arizona."
What on earth, indeed. Arizona dodged a bullet, but HB 2701 did the state no favors in the perception department. Businesses go where they feel welcome. If solar businesses get the idea that Arizona is not serious about being a solar player, Texas, California, and other states beckon. And there is always China.
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