Recently, the Corporation Commission failed to utilize their authority for the good of Arizona and voted down the rule requiring energy companies to use biowaste as a form of energy. Biowaste or biomass is the remnants of the trees that cannot be used for lumber as the forests are cleaned up. Essentially, the trees that can be used for lumber are, and all the remnants are burned to produce energy. These projects have many far-reaching benefits from fire prevention, forest and wildlife health to cleaner water.
In an op-ed to the Arizona Republic on May 12, Mr. Justin Olson of the Corporation Commission claimed a rule requiring energy companies to include in their energy portfolio power derived from biomass is unconstitutional. His only argument against this rule was based solely on costs.
The Arizona Constitution states that the Corporation Commission is tasked to set “just and reasonable rates.” He asserts that a rule requiring the use of biowaste is unconstitutional because its cost is not just and reasonable. His op-ed infers that the commission’s previous rule requiring renewable energy is unconstitutional which would make a biomass rule unconstitutional too. This argument, however, ignores that very same rule that has been upheld in the courts.
While I agree that cost of power is important and should be taken into consideration. But because ratemaking is such a complex and specialized endeavor, to boil it down to a single factor, the cost of energy, as the ONLY factor to consider if something is just and reasonable shows a lack of appreciation for the wide variety of factors that should be considered in the ratemaking process.
The Corporation Commission is also constitutionally tasked to make and enforce “reasonable rules for the safety and the preservation of the health, of the employees and patrons of such corporations.” Commissioner Olson’s argument against a biomass rule ignored this responsibility he is mandated to uphold. Equally as Mr. Olson jumps to a conclusion that cost alone precludes a biomass rule not being just and reasonable, I argue that by not requiring a biomass rule is as much or more contrary to the corporation commission’s responsibility to make and enforce rules for the safety and health of customers. A properly managed forest benefits not only our region but the watersheds downstream. In essence, a biomass rule would positively benefit the entire state.
For us patrons living in forested areas, sadly, our views aren’t considered. We had rural county supervisors and leaders begging for this help and our supplications fell on deaf ears.
Hunter Lewis lives in Snowflake.