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Renewable energy standards challenged by lawsuit

Renewable energy standards challenged by lawsuit

August 23rd, 2013 in News

Missouri lawmakers had no authority to cut regulations that Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved in 2008, a lawsuit filed this week charged.

The 19-page suit asks the St. Louis County circuit court to declare that the Legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, has no legal or constitutional authority "to review or take any other action on administrative rules ... in a law passed through the initiative process."

In November 2008, voters passed Proposition C by a nearly two-to-one margin.

The St. Louis-based Great Rivers Environmental Law Center filed the suit for the Missouri Coalition For the Environment, which "campaigned for the passage of Missouri's Renewable Energy Standard," the Missouri Solar Applications company and Rolla resident and taxpayer Thomas J. Sager.

The lawsuit reminds the court that the 2008 law requires electrical corporations "to achieve increasing percentages of their sales with electricity from renewable energy sources: two percent of sales in the years 2011-13; five percent from 2014-17; ten percent from 2018-20; and fifteen percent in each calendar year beginning in 2021."

The voter-approved law also requires the electricity providers to get "renewable energy credits" (RECs) - or "proof that one megawatt-hour of electricity has been generated from renewable energy sources" - only from "power sold to Missouri consumers."

Following procedures adopted in a 1997 state law, the Public Service Commission submitted its proposed rules for implementing the voter-approved law to the JCAR.

And in July 2010, the committee rejected two paragraphs of the proposed rules, including language that "electric energy or RECs associated with electric energy are eligible to be counted towards the requirements only if the generation facility (is) located in Missouri or ... if the renewable energy resource is sold to Missouri ... customers."

In 2011, the lawsuit noted, lawmakers endorsed the JCAR action, approving a resolution blocking any enforcement of the language in the two paragraphs.

The lawsuit said allowing the JCAR to set aside a rule that was required by a voter-approved law "is an infringement on the people's right to enact legislation by initiative, independent of the general assembly."

In addition, the lawsuit said a separate, 2005 law giving JCAR authority over PSC regulations was passed unconstitutionally.

The suit also asks the court to rule that lawmakers don't have the constitutional authority to veto an executive agency rule, and that a 1997 executive order by then-Gov. Mel Carnahan is unconstitutional because the governor can't give the Legislature veto-power over an executive agency's rules.

Defendants in the lawsuit include Gov. Jay Nixon, the PSC, Secretary of State Jason Kander and the current members of the Joint Committee, including Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

Nanci Gonder, Attorney General Chris Koster's spokeswoman, JCAR Director Cindy Kadlec, PSC spokesman Gregg Ochoa and Kander spokesman Kevin Flannery all said they had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.