PHOENIX — State legislators are getting closer to passing a law that would strip policy-making authority from the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), the elected five-member board that regulates investor-owned utilities.
Senate Bill 1175 would require the Commission to get legislative approval before it could regulate the type of electricity generation a utility could use, effectively killing the state’s proposed clean energy rules that are in the final steps of becoming policy.
On Wednesday, the bill passed the Senate Natural Resources Energy & Water Committee along party lines with five Republicans in favor and four Democrats against it.
Republican backers argued that the Arizona Constitution only allows the ACC to decide rates and not the policies that help determine the rates.
“Their authority is to set rates. That's what's dictated in the Constitution itself. It isn't doesn't say they have the ability to set policy,” said committee member Senator David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista) “They're not the fourth branch as they would love to be. There are three branches of government. And we happen to be named the first branch of government in our Constitution.”
Democrats on the committee who oppose the bill said setting energy policy is within the Commissioner’s authority.
“Under Article 15 section three of the Arizona constitution. It gives the commission power to make and enforce reasonable orders for the convenience, comfort, safety and health of the public at large,” said committee member Senator Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson).
On Tuesday the House Committee on Natural Resources Energy & Water passed its version of the bill HB 2248 along party lines, with six Republicans voting in favor and four Democrats voting against.