4 Nov 2016

BREAKING: Florida utilities file to deny solar advocates’ bid to stop Amendment 1

Written by Jim Pierobon

Attorneys for Florida’s investor-owned utilities and their Amendment 1 campaign late Thursday filed to deny efforts to invalidate the controversial ballot initiative claiming the move by solar the solar industry there and allied advocates is “a transparent effort to garner media attention days before the election.”

The utilities took aim at a central claim by the solar advocates that Amendment 1 (see accompanying text) attempts to “deceive voters” based on a leaked recording of a think tank operative. In that recording, the operative, Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute, called the amendment “an incredibly savvy maneuver” that “would completely negate anything they (pro-solar interests) would try to do either legislatively or constitutionally down the road.”

florida-amendment-1-solar-ballot-summaryAttorneys for Floridians for Solar Choice who filed their appeal at Florida’s Supreme Court Wednesday did not have an immediate comment. The utilities’ filing can be found on the Court’s docket dated 11/04/2016 as a ‘NOTICE-APPEARANCE.”

Utilities have spent at least $23 million to promote passage of Amendment 1 through advertisements, social media and other outreach efforts.

“The Motion is essentially a motion for rehearing – untimely by several months – that improperly presents arguments previously raised,” stated the utilities in their filing, made by attorneys at White & Castle LLP in Miami.

The utilities say their own “motivations are clear: Amendment 1 is designed to protect the use of solar energy in Florida but would ensure that government can manage its growth to protect the broader public interest.”

How much government control and what is in the public interest are at the center of what has been an increasingly heateed debate over Amendment 1. More than 20 newspapers have published editorials urging voters to reject it. Virtually all of the opinions published in favor of Amendment 1 have ties to Florida’s investor-owned utilities.

The filing asserts it is “reckless to accuse Consumers for Smart Solar of ‘fraud or other misconduct on the Court’ based on newspaper articles citing the statements of a third party (Sal Nuzzo).”

“Even under a fast-track schedule, the (advocates’) motion would not be ripe for decision until after the election,” the utilities said.

“Regardless of the legalistic rationale being advanced by the utilities’ well-heeled lawyers,” Dan Whitten, spokesman for the national Solar Energy Industries Association replied, “the fact is that people were deceived and they voted in a way that was at odds with their personal beliefs because of the confusing wording of the amendment.”

Whitten added: “I believe we are going to prevail on Tuesday because the people of Florida are wise to the utilities’ cynical political ruse.”

Sign up for aggregated coverage of Amendment 1 and other emerging developments about the energy transition in the 12 Southeast U.S. states at Southeast Energy News, including the results after Tuesday’s voting and any subsequent challenge and/or ballot recount.

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