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Az energy bill draws fire as it nears finish line

A wide-ranging bill to push energy efficiency and use of power from renewable sources is nearing its final legislative hurdles, with its champion saying it’s needed to protect the state’s future and a critic calling it an economic threat.

Highlights of the 50-page bill include mandates on energy conservation by school districts, idling of diesel engines and use of energy-saving features in construction of new public buildings.

It also would establish voluntary statewide goals for construction of energy efficient residential and commercial buildings and make policy declarations for increased use of renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases in auto emissions.

Passed by the House back on March 27, the bill (HB2766) has been struggling to reach the full Senate after it emerged from a committee last month.

And it seems likely to face stiff opposition in debate that could come next week, with an opponent vowing to propose numerous amendments. At least one would likely make the bill a target for a veto by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, whose administration backs the measure.

The bill is needed to promote energy conservation and efficiency so that Arizona utilities can serve growing demand for power, said the bill’s chief sponsor, Republican Rep. Lucy Mason of Prescott.

“Our energy suppliers, our electricity suppliers, are in a real bind (on) where they’re going to be able to either create or buy electricity,” Mason said.

The bill represents “a very public statement by statute that we are going to move the state forward to address the energy supply issues that we have,” Mason said. “It’s all about the grid. That’s the bottom line.”

A critic, Republican Sen. Pamela Gorman of Anthem, said fellow lawmakers should study the bill carefully because it includes burdensome and ill-advised mandates that could have dire effects on the state’s economy.

“You can’t look yourself in the mirror unless you’ve done this,” she said. “It deserves a level of conversation that we haven’t had.”

Mason said she has made numerous changes in the bill to resolve concerns voiced by local governments, the housing industry and others.

“This doesn’t exist. There are no ‘against’,” Mason said, pointing to a list of groups that previously registered opposition to the bill. “I’m very confident about what we’ve created here as being a good economic development mover and energy saver.”

Energy efficiency by public schools is especially important because they are among the “biggest wasters” of energy and their costs are borne by taxpayers, Mason said.

Gorman said she plans to propose numerous amendments when the Senate debates the bill.

One, she said, would be to include a vetoed bill that would have prohibited Napolitano’s administration from moving forward with recently approved rules to limit greenhouse gases in auto emissions.

The vetoed bill was sponsored by Sen. Jake Flake, a Snowflake Republican who died Sunday.

“As part of his legacy, I think it’s important to do that,” she said.

Including the vetoed bill in the energy bill surely would cause it to be vetoed too, Mason said. “And maybe that’s what these people want to have happen.”

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This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

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For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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