Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Could the Cap Times/Yellow Sheet be more brazen in its pro-plutocracy bias? UPDATED 2:45pm 4-24-14



The following blurb ran in the Yellow Sheet on Monday.
A TENUOUS CONNECTION The Los Angeles Times last week ran an article seeking to tie the Koch brothers and their vast network of politically engaged nonprofits to the solar fights that have emerged in Arizona and elsewhere in the country. The article, however, offered little to no evidence that the Kochs network was involved in the net metering fight in Arizona last year, save to note that consultant Sean Noble, a key member of that network, waded into the campaign against the rooftop solar industry on behalf of APS. In Arizona, a major utility and a tangle of secret donors and operatives with ties to ALEC and the Kochs invested millions to persuade state regulators to impose a monthly fee of $50 to $100 on net-metering customers, the Times Evan Halper wrote.
Two pro-business groups, at least one of which had previously reported receiving millions of dollars from the Koch brothers, formed the campaign's public face. Their activities were coordinated by GOP consultant Sean Noble and former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, two early architects of the Koch network of nonprofits. As the Republic earlier reported, APS had sent money to two nonprofits 60 Plus and Prosper through Noble and his firm, DC London (LINK). Later, APS acknowledged spending $3.7 million in its fight against net metering (LINK). In a roundabout way, what the Times article suggests, however, is that Noble didn t need to be persuaded to do APS's bidding in the net metering fight. According to the paper, the Kochs, Grover Norquist and some of the country s largest power companies are backing efforts targeting green energy, notably in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona. 


Halper's story in the LA Times notes early on,
Solar, once almost universally regarded as a virtuous, if perhaps over-hyped, energy alternative, has now grown big enough to have enemies.
That's a fair claim. The evidence is all over the internet, in news stories, in blogs and in comments made by instigators and propagandists (trolls) posted to those news and blog posts.
The Koch brothers, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and some of the nation's largest power companies have backed efforts in recent months to roll back state policies that favor green energy. The conservative luminaries have pushed campaigns in Kansas, North Carolina and Arizona, with the battle rapidly spreading to other states.
Alarmed environmentalists and their allies in the solar industry have fought back, battling the other side to a draw so far. Both sides say the fight is growing more intense as new states, including Ohio, South Carolina and Washington, enter the fray.
At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.
Net metering forms the linchpin of the solar-energy business model. Without it, firms say, solar power would be prohibitively expensive.


The connection is not at all tenuous despite claims by the lobbyist sycophants at the Cap Times/Yellow Sheet. Halper simply was writing a column, not a long form investigative piece designed to expose something that's been hidden all along. Because it has NOT been hidden.

The Arizona Eagletarian has reported on APS/SRP and its delusional misdirection before. In this case, the lobbyist propaganda is designed to keep those electric utilities from having to adapt to the disruptive innovations they inevitably MUST face or die. 

Halper goes on,
The [Edison Electric] institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, "it may be too late to repair the utility business model."
The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a membership group for conservative state lawmakers, recently drafted model legislation that targeted net metering. The group also helped launch efforts by conservative lawmakers in more than half a dozen states to repeal green energy mandates.
"State governments are starting to wake up," Christine Harbin Hanson, a spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, said in an email. The organization has led the effort to overturn the mandate in Kansas, which requires that 20% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources.
An alternative way to look at the problem facing public power utilities is that if APS and SRP fail to adapt, and fight long enough in the political arena, then technological innovations will most certainly build up behind the dam, so to speak, and eventually breach it. When that happens, everybody and their brother will be able to install distributed generation (like rooftop solar, but by then there will be other options) and APS and SRP will fail anyway because they will have refused to adapt when they had the chance.

In the meantime, the Arizona Capitol Times and its Yellow Sheet Report will likely continue to pander to its funding source/market by telling its readers what they want to hear, instead of what they NEED to force themselves to become aware.

And in the meantime, the Arizona House may have to vote, before ending the session, on SB1301 which makes various changes to the tax code. One such change involves a property tax increase for rooftop solar for homeowners (Section 12 of the bill). The change, to A.R.S. 42-11054, means that the rooftop solar -- which right now exempts those rooftop solar units from adding to the taxable property value -- makes a change that will mean if the homeowner provides any of that solar generated electricity to the grid (instead of using it all themselves at their home), their property taxes will increase.

This is unconscionable.  

More recent (today) than the story about which the YS was yammering, LA Times cartoonist David Horsey (see the cartoon at the top of this blog post) wrote an op-ed on the subject, including:

The Koch brothers have a new ploy to protect the traditional energy business that helped make them the planet’s fifth- and sixth-richest humans. They are funding a campaign to shackle solar energy consumers who have escaped the grip of big electric utilities. [...]
They already have their first victory. On Monday, Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that authorizes electric utilities to tack a surcharge on the bills of private citizens who have installed solar panels or wind turbines on their homes. That’s right, Oklahomans who have spent money to generate their own clean and green power now must pay compensation to the power companies.
This sounds a bit like government trampling on the independence of the citizenry. You’d think the tea party would be protesting and militia groups would be riding in with guns drawn. But since it is Republicans and big business doing the trampling, there is, as yet, no outcry from the libertarian crowd.
So, what is driving this crusade against clean energy? As Halper reports, “At the nub of the dispute are two policies found in dozens of states. One requires utilities to get a certain share of power from renewable sources. The other, known as net metering, guarantees homeowners or businesses with solar panels on their roofs the right to sell any excess electricity back into the power grid at attractive rates.”
Are we going to let Steve Yarbrough (author of SB1301) get away with this crap?

At this writing, SB1301 is on a House calendar for a third read vote. If 1301 passes, that's one more reason to replace Yarbrough with Kristie O'Brien.

UPDATE                           UPDATE                         UPDATE

Not long after I posted this story, the Arizona House sat as in the Committee of the Whole to further amend SB1301.

I have not seen the amendment and it has not yet been posted, but the description given (orally) by JD Mesnard was that the provision whereby rooftop solar would cause a homeowner's property taxes to be raised was stricken from the bill.

I received a couple of replies to inquiries I posted on Twitter seeking clarification of what the new amendment accomplished.

State Rep. Victoria Steele replied that section 12 of SB1301 was indeed removed from the bill. Moments later, the House voted 55-0 to pass SB1301 as further amended, sending the bill back to the Senate. We will be able to determine later this evening whether the Senate accepts the additional change. All indications are that it will.

It also appears likely the 2014 regular session of the Arizona Legislature will adjourn Sine Die this evening (sometime before dawn). Hopefully, there will be no more mischief between now and then.

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Additional insight on current Arizona Department of Revenue practice that SB1301 was expected to codify in statute (before tonight's amendment) included in this report from the Rose Law Group.


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The 2nd regular session of the 51st Arizona Legislature adjourned Sine Die at 1:42am this morning.

While the Republican dominated legislature did get away with a couple of things, several very bad bills were defeated. From day one, when Yarbrough introduced SB1062, to the budget process when Kavanagh tried to slip a $900,000 wet kiss to private prison operator GEO Group; from shutting down major efforts to undermine K-12 public education to Gov Brewer vetoing a couple of very crazy gun bills. The voice of Arizona's people was heard much more loudly than it had been in many other recent years.

I will write more in reflecting on the 2014 legislative session soon.

We have much work to do. A change in the balance of power for 2015 is ours for the reclaiming.

This land is OUR land. I DO have a hammer. And we SHALL overcome.

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