For Immediate Release, July 8, 2020

Contact:

Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Seth Gladstone, Food & Water Watch, (917) 363-6615, sgladstone@fwwatch.org
Erin Jensen, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0722, ejensen@foe.org
John Farrell, Institute for Self-Reliance, (612) 808-0888, jfarrell@islr.org
Jim Warren, NC WARN, Inc., (919) 416-5077, jim@ncwarn.org

9th Circuit Court Urged to Reject Arizona Utility’s Discrimination Against Rooftop Solar

PHOENIX— Five climate and energy-conservation groups took legal action this week in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge an Arizona public power utility’s discrimination against rooftop-solar customers.

The Salt River Project, a public power utility in Arizona, raised electricity rates for rooftop-solar customers by 60%. In response rooftop-solar customers challenged the utility for the discriminatory rates that penalize them, in violation of the antitrust laws. A lower court dismissed the case on antitrust injury grounds. Today’s amicus brief opposes the dismissal and urges the appeals court to remand the case back to the lower court to address the utility’s antitrust violations.

“The Salt River Project’s discriminatory rates unlawfully penalize families who embrace solar energy and want to protect Arizona’s air quality,” said Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s energy justice program. “It’s outrageous that fossil fuel utilities like Salt River are using anticompetitive tactics to strangle rooftop solar and protect their profits. Especially in this era of COVID-19 and the climate emergency, these dinosaur utilities must be stopped from obstructing energy resilience and our desperately needed transition to a clean and just energy system.”

“Renewables are the future and fossil fuel companies know it,” said Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth. “These dirty corporations are so intent on protecting their own profits that they’ve resorted to illegal tactics to try and stop clean energy innovations. To create an equitable energy future based on renewable sources, we must oppose the illegal protections utilities use to defend fossil fuels.”

“The Salt River power company is attempting to stifle renewable energy for its own financial gain, but punishing homeowners for going solar is shortsighted and reckless,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Too many elected officials receive contributions from the fossil fuel companies to look the other way. It’s critical that the courts weigh in and put a stop to these illegal and immoral practices. Solar energy is critical for the future of this planet. We must transition off of fossil fuels, starting now.”

“We are deeply concerned about the coordinated efforts of the Salt River Project and other monopoly utilities to stifle the growth of solar energy,” said Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN. “Distributed solar, combined with battery storage, is a path that can help slow the climate crisis. Continuing our status quo of big utility construction of unneeded power plants is disastrous.”

“The case for preserving an electric utility's monopoly over electricity generation died with federally induced wholesale competition in the late 1970s and with the recent advent of customer-owned and cost-effective rooftop solar,” said John Farrell, director of the Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “The 9th Circuit should permanently bury it in 2020.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.