Bondi's next (and, we hope, last) stand: solar energy

click to enlarge Bondi's next (and, we hope, last) stand: solar energy -
Bondi's next (and, we hope, last) stand: solar energy

Not that it's surprising, but Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has deemed blocking a possible voter-driven embrace of solar power worthy of taxpayer dollars. 

A surprisingly diverse coalition — as in, everyone from Tea Partiers to environmental groups — is backing a constitutional amendment that would make it easier for businesses and individuals to generate and sell solar power to consumers. It would go on the 2016 ballot in the state and would need 60 percent of the state's voters to give it a thumbs-up.

But because it has a good chance of passage (Democratic turnout is typically better in presidential years), an unsurprisingly not-diverse cast of characters is trying to stop it from getting onto the ballot, this time around via the courts.

Among these, of course, is Bondi, who has used her position to fight things she (or whoever's grooming her for political advancement) doesn't like, including same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, Clean Water Act protections for Florida's wetlands and abortion rights.

In a brief filed with the Supreme Court of Florida last month, she claims the ballot language is misleading and violates a requirement that voter-approved constitutional amendments have a single purpose.

She also claims "the proposed Amendment removes long-standing consumer protections and creates a new class of electric utilities—one unregulated by the Public Service Commission, immune from legislative control, and unrestrained by the consumer-protection rules that apply to other public utilities."

But as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy head Susan Glickman points out, if Bondi really cared about consumer protections, she would have gone after Duke Energy when it deliberately extended ratepayers' billing cycles, thereby artificially inducing higher rates for all that are typically reserved for excessively high usage. Or when they gutted energy efficiency requirements. Or overcharged churches. Et cetera.

Bondi's opposition to a measure that could make it easier for consumers to buy affordable, renewable, abundant power shouldn't be much of a surprise, Glickman writes:

During the 2014 campaign, Attorney General Bondi raised $3,740,816 and received some direct contributions from power companies and fossil fuel interests such as $3,000 from TECO, $6,000 from Koch Industries and at least $8,000 from FPL employees and their spouses. $1,449,370 came to her from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). From 2004 to 2012, almost $17 million went to the state’s political parties where there are no limits.

Power companies gave the RPOF $3,923,832 in the 2014 cycle: 

  • TECO $1,463,017 
  • FPL $1,122,301 (plus $191,365 in-kind contributions from NextEra)
  • Duke Energy $260,399 
  • Progress Energy $600,750 on behalf of Duke
  • Gulf Power $286,000

To be fair, utilities donate to Democrats, too — that is, if said Democrat is in a gerrymandered district and thus most likely to win.

Joining Bondi in this fight are the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce (which sounds like a perfectly nice organization until you dig a little).

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to issue an opinion on the issue in September.

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