Tom Steyer One Step Closer To Dictating Arizona’s Energy Industry

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A “clean energy” campaign bankrolled by Tom Steyer submitted thousands of signatures to put their measure on the November ballot, setting the stage for a rigorous energy battle this campaign season.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, a group that is campaigning to mandate half of Arizona’s electricity come from renewable energy, submitted 480,464 signatures on Thursday to bring the issue to voters this November — a count that was more than double what’s required by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. Supporters of the initiative gathered by the state capitol Thursday morning to highlight their demands for more renewable energy.

The campaign’s progress would likely not have been possible without Tom Steyer. The billionaire environmental activist has funneled nearly $1 million to the group through his national environmental organization, NextGen Climate Action. Steyer has bankrolled similar renewable energy efforts in Michigan and Nevada.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona was seemingly mired in one controversy after the next during its months-long effort to collect signatures.

The Steyer-backed campaign hired around 500 canvassers, many of them from out-of-state, to reach their signature goal. At least 44 of them were discovered to be convicted felons — making them barred from canvassing in the state of Arizona. Many of the felons carried eyebrow-raising rap sheets: murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, vehicular homicide, aggravated assault and other crimes. One particular canvasser hired by the campaign, Clayton John Lonetree, served over seven years in a maximum-security prison after he was caught handing sensitive information over to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. (RELATED: Tom Steyer Using Convicted Russian Spy To Promote Green Energy Campaign)

The clean energy campaign claims the illegal hires were unintentional and a result of them slipping through their vetting process.

Rodd McLeod, a longtime Democratic operative, serves as the spokesman for Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona. McLeod was a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential bid and has worked for numerous other Democratic politicians in the state, such as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

“Funded by a California billionaire, directed by California political strategists and the mirror image of an existing California state law, this ‘clean energy’ ballot initiative should wear a MADE IN CALIFORNIA label. It’s no surprise, when the campaign couldn’t find enough Arizonans willing to carry its signature petitions in recent weeks, it turned to the help of hundreds and hundreds of out-of-state petition circulators,” Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, said in a Thursday statement obtained by the The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“Know this: Where the YES campaign has been reckless in breaking the law by registering convicted felons to carry its petitions and engaging in other improper activities, we will be diligent in ensuring the law is followed. Where the YES campaign has been careless in drafting a proposal that would close Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station and hike electricity bills for Arizona consumers and small businesses, we will be clear in making sure every Arizona voter understands the dire consequences of this initiative,” Benson continued.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity — the campaign rival to Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona — opposes the renewable energy proposal. The state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co., also stands in opposition to the proposal, arguing that such a mandate would make cause utility rates to skyrocket and foment unreliability in the power grid.

If Steyer’s campaign is successful, Arizona’s constitution would be amended to mandate utilities produce half of their electricity from renewable energy by 2030 — a monumental ask of utilities where the current standard is 15 percent renewable by 2025.

The proposal notably does not include nuclear energy — considered by many environmentalists to be a crucial source of zero-emissions energy. Passage of the new mandate would likely close the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, a nuclear station located near the Arizona town of Tonopah and the state’s largest source of clean energy. Studies have determined that the renewable energy mandate being pushed by Steyer could actually increase the state’s carbon emissions — such an outcome is possible if Pale Verde closes and is replaced by natural gas.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office did not respond to a request for comment by TheDCNF.

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