A liberal San Francisco billionaire has decided to bring his radical environmentalist agenda to Arizona. Earlier this month a group called NextGen announced their plans to fund a ballot initiative to amend our state constitution requiring utility providers generate at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Of course, this mandate won’t affect the backers of the measure, since NextGen is a California-based organization funded by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. It doesn’t matter to him or NextGen that draconian renewable energy mandates will harm hardworking families and small businesses in Arizona. They like the idea that rural communities will pay a steep price as a result of sky high energy prices and hefty job losses due to the shuttering of Arizona’s coal power plants.

The intellectual dishonesty surrounding this measure is offensive. Though the media loves to paint Mr. Steyer as an altruistic “climate change crusader,” they continually ignore the fact that his lucrative hedge fund is heavily invested in the solar industry. It’s Steyer’s right to invest in any company he wants but forcing people to use solar through renewable mandates that pad his bottom line is corporate welfare at its worst.

Making the initiative even more destructive is their definition of renewable energy does NOT include nuclear power.  This means that one of our most reliable, sustainable and clean sources of power (Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station) would not count toward the mandate. Instead, our grid would be forced to transition toward costly, unreliable sources such as wind and solar. Compliance with the 50 percent mandate is anticipated to result in an average utility rate increase of $500 per year for Arizona families.

Just as absurd, the language exempts Salt River Project (Arizona’s second largest utility) from the energy mandate. Apparently, NextGen and Tom Steyer believe that SRP customers are ‘cleaner’ than other utility customers, and therefore will still be allowed to purchase cheap conventional power though everyone else is stuck picking up the tab. This is grossly unfair, and likely was done to reduce their political opposition at the ballot box.

The reality is this measure isn’t about improving our environment or making Arizona healthier. This is a power play by wealthy California interests that see our state as an easy target for their liberal ideas. To them, spending a couple million dollars sneaking their renewable mandate into Arizona’s constitution is a drop in the bucket compared to the hundreds of millions Steyer has spent the last two election cycles throughout the country.

NextGen doesn’t have any real grassroots support, so they have brought in an out of state paid circulator firm to canvass our streets to collect the necessary 225,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. We urge Arizona residents when they see these hired guns to not sign their petition and tell NextGen to take their liberal ideas back to California.

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The Arizona Free Enterprise Club is a free market policy and advocacy group dedicated to promoting a strong and vibrant Arizona economy.