An Earth Day open letter to the Arizona Corporation Commissioners

Image via NASA/public domain

Dear Commissioners,

As a life-long environmentalist, Earth Day has always been a very special day for me. Even though this year brings alternative virtual events due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the continued push for environmental justice, real action on climate change and strong renewable energy standards for Arizona are more important than ever.

Just yesterday, the American Lung Association released its State of the Air Report, which ranks Arizona among the 10 worst states for air pollution across all categories. Air pollution disproportionately affects people of color, and is also linked with higher COVID-19 death rates.  

One thing I would like to see happen, pronto, is for you, our Commissioners, to enact a strong renewable energy standard that includes 50% renewable energy by 2030. There has been too much inaction for far too long, and in a state that has broken both heat and heat death records on a yearly basis, it’s time to act. We have an abundant supply of sunshine.

Four of the five of you have already called for 100% clean energy by 2050. The only Commissioner who has not recently weighed in is Commissioner Boyd Dunn (though your 2019 filing showed progress on the issue). As the last Commissioner in office who voted in favor of the unjust and unjustified 2017 Arizona Public Service rate hike, I think the public deserves to know where you stand on renewable energy (and not just renewable energy that utilities own and profit from).

Simply setting goals for a generation from now isn’t enough, and we need attainable interim milestones to get us there and make this a reality. 

Though it’s lovely to see APS volunteer a goal of 45% renewable energy by 2030, there are no consequences if that target isn’t met. And we need you to take action to protect all Arizonans: Why should Tucson residents be stuck with dirtier, more expensive energy than the rest of the state if Tucson Electric Power doesn’t unilaterally decide to chart a similar course? 

Arizona is in the bullseye of climate change. There should be a strong focus on renewables, as opposed to the current focus on “clean energy,” which includes nuclear. This focus on renewable energy will also be a win for our economy and job growth, including in rural areas across the state. It would be an especially big win for the Navajo Nation. whose land and health have been irreparably harmed by dirty coal for decades, and who are now facing the brunt of illness and death due to COVID-19.

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, “most U.S. adults prioritize developing alternative energy sources for the country such as solar or wind power rather than increasing U.S. exploration and production of fossil fuels (77% vs. 22%).” This same survey finds many people are interested in having solar panels on their homes.

My Earth Day wish is for you to be bold leaders for the future of Arizona – our people, economy, planet and health – by enacting a strong 50% renewable energy standard by 2030. The utilities won’t like it, and even some Corporation Commission staff might chafe at the idea. But it is your job to lead the way for our future.

Show us you care, regain some public trust, and act. Now is the time for real action. Our future depends on you, and I know you can do it.

Earth Day Love,

Stacey Champion