Tom Steyer’s Renewable Energy Campaign Inches Closer To Victory

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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  • A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, keeping Proposition 127 on the November ballot. 
  • Proposition 127 is a measure that would mandate Arizona increase its renewable energy portfolio to 50 percent by 2030. 
  • The ruling is a win for Tom Steyer, who has donated over $8 million in support of the initiative.

A judge ruled Monday that a clean energy initiative in Arizona can stay on the November ballot, the latest victory in Tom Steyer’s multi-million dollar effort to increase the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

After a five-day trial, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley determined that Proposition 127 — a proposal to raise Arizona’s renewable energy mandate to 50 percent by 2030 — can be kept on the ballot box. Opponents of the initiative contended that Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (CEHA) misled petition signers and knowingly submitted an insufficient number of valid signatures.

Lawyers representing Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, argued in court that CEHA petition gatherers advertised the measure as a “clean energy” mandate, potentially leading people to believe that nuclear energy would be included in the 50 percent mix. Proposition 127, however, does not include nuclear, and the initiative could potentially close the state’s sole nuclear plant. Additionally, plaintiffs argued in court that internal documents reveal CEHA staffers knew they did not have a sufficient number of legitimate signatures, but submitted them to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office anyway. (RELATED: Tom Steyer-Backed Initiative Makes Ballot, But Accusations Of Foul Play Remain)

Nevertheless, Kiley ruled in favor of CEHA, determining that no one was misled and that the group’s internal analysis did not prove they were attempting to flood the system with invalid signatures.

The ruling means Proposition 127 will remain on the November ballot, placing the issue into the hands of Arizona voters.

“While disappointing, today’s court decision does not alter our belief and that of plaintiffs that the ‘Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona’ initiative failed to collect the minimum number of valid signatures necessary to qualify for the November ballot,” Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, said in a statement obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“In fact, the initiative campaign admitted as much in the under-oath testimony of its campaign manager and via internal campaign documents revealing the campaign itself believed it had fallen short of the 225,963-signature ballot threshold mandated by the state,” Benson continued in his statement.”Proposition 127 would fundamentally alter the Arizona Constitution and implement costly new regulations to raise electric rates for Arizona families and businesses. Before we proceed any further down this path, it is only prudent to be certain the initiative has met the bare standards necessary to be on the ballot.” 

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity opposes Proposition 127 and has vowed to keep fighting the measure. Benson stated that his group is currently preparing to appeal Monday’s decision to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Monday’s court decision comes as a major win for Tom Steyer, a billionaire activist who has bankrolled the renewable energy measure. Through a national environmental group he funds, NextGen Climate Action, Steyer has funneled over $8 million to CEHA.

Should the measure remain on the ballot and Arizona voters approve it during the November elections, it wouldn’t be the first time Steyer has successfully influenced a state’s energy policy. The California environmentalist funded an initiative — Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan — that called on Michigan to dramatically increase its renewable energy portfolio. Instead of fighting his efforts, the state’s two biggest utility companies agreed to a comprise in May. (RELATED: Tom Steyer Spends $2 Million To Force Renewables On Michigan Customers)

Much like the campaign initiative in Arizona, Clean Energy, Healthy Michigan enjoyed plush cash from NextGen Climate Action. Steyer’s organization funneled nearly $2 million in direct and in-kind contributions to the group before utilities agreed to their terms.

Unlike Michigan, however, Arizonans for Affordable Energy has vowed to keep fighting.

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