It has been an active few months for renewable energy in the United States, as several states have made headlines or advanced new renewable energy legislation. Over the next few posts, I'll be highlighting a few of the most noteworthy renewable energy stories from a few of the states within Polsinelli Shughart PC's ever-growing footprint. Today, we'll begin with the solar-energy jewel of the Southwest, Arizona. Lawsuit Threatens Arizona's RES A lawsuit which called into question the legality of the Arizona RES was recently struck down by the Arizona Court of Appeals. The lawsuit, which was filed by the Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix, Arizona-based conservative public policy research organization established in 1988, argued that the Arizona Corporation Commission did not have the authority to impose its Renewable Energy Standard on public utilities. In upholding the RES, the Court found that enforcement of the RES was within the legitimate powers of the ACC, and took special note of the fact that the RES relates to the regulation of electricity rates. I'll talk more about this in an upcoming post, but the use of litigation to challenge the validity of a RES appears to be part of a larger national trend. It is definitely something to watch out for as more and more states look to increase the pressure on public utilities to switch to renewable energy options. For more information about state Renewable Energy Standards, you can see this primer that I wrote on the topic. Arizona Bill Proposes Changes to Transmission Siting Procedures Rep. Frank Pratt, chairman of the Arizona House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently introduced an amendment to legislation which supporters claim would remove a big procedural hurdle for new interstate power lines in Arizona. The amendment, which has been attached to SB 1517, proposes three key modifications to the ACC's normal siting procedure: • The ACC would be permitted to decide on a case-by-case basis whether transmission proposals will be evaluated by the Line Siting Committee, an 11-member appointed body, or whether the issue will go directly before the five-member Commission. Currently, any proposal for a line of more than 115 kilovolts must be heard by both the Line Siting Committee and the ACC. • For individual power lines, the ACC would be directed to approve any project that meets federal guidelines under the National Environmental Policy Act. It should be noted, however, that even with this change the Line Siting Committee could still impose certain conditions on a line's construction. • The ACC would be allowed, but not required, to hold public hearings on proposed power lines. This legislation managed to clear the House Energy and Natural Resources and Rules Committees, but failed to reach a final vote prior to the adjournment of the legislature. We'll keep you posted on how the legislature handles this bill once it reconvenes later this year. If you have any questions about state siting standards, feel free to contact the Polsinelli Shughart Energy Group for more information.
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