A superior court judge from Maricopa County, Ariz., has accepted jurisdiction to decide whether the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), a state regulatory body, has constitutional and statutory authority to adopt and implement renewable energy standards across the state.

Judge Joseph Heilman, who heard oral arguments in the case Miller v. Arizona Corporation Commission, is expected to rule within the next few months.

The case revolves around the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) Rules, which the ACC adopted in November 2006. The rules have forced utilities regulated by the commission to produce 15% of power sold from renewable sources by 2025. The ACC allowed the companies to collect a fee in ratepayers’ monthly bills to fund renewable programs.

The Goldwater Institute—a think tank that describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to the study of public policy in Arizona”—last year began litigation on behalf of a handful of Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) customers against the ACC. Goldwater has claimed that the rules have resulted in rate surcharges to residential and business customers that will total millions of dollars. It alleges in its lawsuit that the cost of implementing the standards to meet the 2025 deadline will cost ratepayers close to $2.4 billion.

But at the heart of its argument is the assertion that the ACC, which was established under the Arizona Constitution with limited power to regulate utility rates, overstepped its constitutional jurisdiction in adopting the rules. The Constitution warrants a separation of powers, making the state Legislature responsible for the state’s renewable standard policy—not the ACC, Goldwater says.

ACC officials contend commissioners were within their rights to establish the standards.

Source: Goldwater Institute