In a surreal scene yesterday afternoon, the Republican-dominated House Government Committee voted *5-to-2 to approve a bill that major business interests in the state had just testified against, portraying HB 2701 as a major jobs-killer in a state that has been one of the hardest hit by the current recession.
Back Door Attack
The bill adds “nuclear” power to the list of renewable energy sources that count toward Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standards (RES). Used by 32 states, an RES mandates that a certain percentage of a utility’s electricity be produced by renewable sources. (No other state counts existing nuclear power generation toward meeting an RES mandate.)
But even proponents of the bill say privately and sometimes publicly, that their intent has nothing to do with extending renewable incentives to nuclear power. A source working with pro-HB2701 legislators agreed with the assessment that what is really at issue is a “turf battle” between the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) that currently sets the RES and the legislature, which believes only it has that power.
Some speakers last night objected to being “caught in the middle” of the battle.
A Turf Fight – and More
But there is much more going on than feuding elements of government
A representative of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, speaking in favor of the bill, based his argument in part on doubts about the reality of climate change. Even if it exists, he said, he’d still back HB2701 because the bill would end government subsidies for all renewable energy sources.
Representative Steve Montenegro (R-12), a co-sponsor of the bill and a committee member, explained his support for the bill during yesterday’s hearing. “I’m a believer in the free market,” he said. “Solar should stand without having to be propped up,” by government incentives.
That drew sharp criticism from Democratic minority whip, Chad Campbell (D-14), also a member of the committee, who countered that all energy sources receive government subsidies of some sort.
“While we sit here and debate whether solar is viable,” Campbell added, “the rest of the world has already decided it is.”
The bill now moves to the House Committee on Rules, before heading to the floor for a full House vote.
(You can read more about the bill in an article I wrote for OnEarth magazine.)
*One of the no votes came from Republican Warde Nichols (District 21), a cosponsor of HB2701.