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Arizona voters reject clean-energy measure Proposition 127 by large margin

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 11/6/2018 Ryan Randazzo

Voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 127, a ballot measure that would force electric companies to get half of their energy from renewable sources by 2030, the Associated Press projected Tuesday night.

California billionaire activist Tom Steyer's political group NextGen America spent heavily to get the measure on the ballot and win over voters, but Steyer was outspent by Arizona Public Service Co. and other opponents of the measure.

"Arizonans support clean energy, but not costly, politically driven mandates," said Matthew Benson, chairman of the opposition group funded by APS' parent company.

"Arizonans support solar power and renewable technology, but not at the expense of an affordable, reliable energy supply. Arizonans prefer to choose our own energy future rather than have it dictated to us by out-of-state special interests."

It easily was the most expensive ballot measure in state history.

Opponents said the measure would increase electric bills by forcing companies such as APS to build new solar and wind facilities, which would mean the early closure of coal and even the state's lone nuclear plant.

Supporters said that because the cost of renewable energy is competitive with fossil-fuel-burning plants, even with battery backup to provide steady electricity throughout the night, the claims of increased utility bills are unfounded. They also doubt the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station would close.

Polls showed the measure was deeply unpopular heading into the election.

But that did not deter proponents.

“The biggest thing we wanted in the cycle we already got, which is doing significant damage to APS’ stranglehold on our politics,” said Eric Hyers, campaign manager for the ballot measure. “We’ve changed the dynamic against them. Being seen as cozy with them is seen as a liability.”

The Arizona Corporation Commission, five elected officials who regulate utility rates and policies, has its own mandate that electric companies get 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2025. They are considering an increase in that standard to get 80 percent of the state's electricity from renewables and nuclear energy by 2050.

Opponents of Prop. 127 said that such measures are best implemented by the Corporation Commission, which can amend the plan over time. Prop. 127 would change the state constitution and not give utility regulators much wiggle room in how the plan is implemented.

The total spent by various committees on the measure reached $54.7 million as of Oct. 20, and continued to increase through Election Day. That includes:

  • $29.9 million from Arizonans for Affordable Electricity, funded by APS' parent company opposing the measure.
  • $23.2 million from Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, funded by NextGen to promote the measure.
  • $785,000 from Save Native American Families, funded by the Navajo Nation opposing the measure.
  • $734,000 from Vote No Arizona, funded by rural electric companies opposing the measure.
  • $97,000 from Southern Arizonans for Responsible Energy, funded by Unisource Energy Corp. and the Tucson Metro Chamber opposing the measure.
  • $16,000 from Responsible Energy for Mohave County, funded by Unisource Energy Corp. opposing the measure.

The spending easily tops the 2002 tribal gaming issue that drew three competing ballot measures, with a combined $39 million spent on those campaigns.

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