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Arizona AG accused of bias against clean energy initiative

September 18, 2018

PHOENIX (AP) — A campaign to mandate more clean energy in Arizona accused Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday of manipulating the ballot measure’s wording in favor of the state’s largest utility, a claim his office called laughable.

At a news conference outside Brnovich’s Phoenix office, supporters of Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona pointed to emails, obtained through a public records request, in which an election official characterized some of the language as “eyebrow-raising.”

The Aug. 29 emails show that Beau Roysden, an acting division chief in the attorney general’s office, had sent over several proposed changes to the ballot summary to the secretary of state’s office. Among them was the addition of the phrase “irrespective of cost to consumers.”

The office “unfortunately tried to put their finger on the scale and describe language about Prop 127 in a way that will try to get people to vote against it,” campaign spokesman DJ Quinlan said.

Bill Mundell, a former Arizona corporation commissioner and supporter, said that’s similar to wording utility Arizona Public Service Co. uses in its anti-initiative ads. “I would implore him even at this late date please reconsider the language that is in the ballot initiative that you authorized and approved,” Mundell said.

The attorney general is tasked with reviewing and approving summaries of all ballot measures for potential constitutional issues.

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the wording simply describes how the initiative would change existing law. He said the fact that APS gave $425,000 to a Republican organization campaigning for Brnovich in 2014 is irrelevant.

“It’s offensive to suggest anyone else on the outside had any influence on this,” Anderson said.

Furthermore, he added, Roysden had given the same argument for the phrasing in an Aug. 30 email to the clean energy campaign’s attorney.

“The ballot is supposed to describe the essential change in existing law. The existing renewable energy plan, whether you like it or not ... was established after giving consideration to the cost to consumers,” Anderson said. “If it goes into effect, the initiative will seek to establish a new constitutional mandate.”

APS has been a fierce opponent of a push to require half the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030. The current mandate is 15 percent by 2025. The utility has said the proposal would cause rates to rise. Its parent company, Pinnacle West, has been funding a campaign against the clean energy measure.

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