The push for a November ballot question asking Arizona voters to increase the state’s renewable mandate from 15 to 50 percent hasn’t received any monetary support from local citizens. Instead, recent campaign finance filings show all of the contributions for the drive have come only from California billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America PAC.
While the fact that Steyer was behind the initiative was never a secret, the new results are likely to increase the rhetoric—which has come from both Republicans and Democrats—that an out-of-state activist is trying to single handedly rewrite a major shift in Arizona energy policy.
Currently, Arizona is aiming for 15 percent of the state’s power generation to come from renewable sources by 2025. The November question, if it makes the ballot, would seek to quickly boost that to 50 percent by 2030. The signature-gathering effort needs roughly 225,000 signatures to make it on the ballot, an effort which is being shepherded by the group Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona.
Shortly after the initiative was announced, Republicans in the state legislature unveiled a bill to signal their opposition to the plan. Close on the heels of that bill, two Democrats in the legislature co-authored an op-ed in The Arizona Repubic with sharp criticisms.
"This proposal is being forced on our voters by a California billionaire," the pair of lawmakers wrote. "He and his political strategists have created this initiative as a mirror image of a regulation already adopted in their home state. But we don't believe a California plan is necessarily the right fit for Arizona."
Additionally, concerns have arisen about the future of the use of nuclear power in the state if the initiative were to pass. Arizona is home to the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the largest supplier of nuclear energy in the nation.
"There is a wide and diverse coalition of Arizonans behind this ballot initiative, including doctors, nurses, small businesses, and local organizations," Rodd McLeod with Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona told the Washington Free Beacon by email.
McLeod cited 15 groups backing the renewable standard, including groups like the Arizona Asthma Coalition, Mi Familia Vota, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
"That's because cleaner air means huge health benefits including reduced rates of asthma, respiratory ailments, and heart disease, as well as thousands of new clean energy jobs right here in Arizona," McLeod concluded.
Steyer’s political profile has risen in recent months, thanks largely to his "Need to Impeach" campaign, in which the California billionaire is running TV ads to build support for an impeachment effort. He’s also announced a multi-million dollar effort to support Democrats running for the House of Representatives hoping to turn the majority out of Republican control and back to Democrats.
For all of these national efforts, Steyer still has ambitions related to climate change and environmental efforts on the state level, particularly in other western states like New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada.
News of the absence of local support to the renewable energy initiative was first reported by the website AZDemsExposed.com, which is run by a Republican strategist.