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Judge rules burning trash isn't renewable energy

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Corporation Commission shouldn't have approved an electric generation project's planned use of power generated by a trash incinerator to qualify as renewable energy, a judge has ruled.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen ruled Tuesday that the commission erred and abused its discretion in deciding to give renewable energy credits to the Mohave Electric Cooperative for the project planned near Surprise by the Reclamation Power Group.

The Sierra Club environmental group argued that burning trash to produce power was not a use intended under the state's renewable energy standard, while the commission argued that its decision was entitled to deference to the court.

Corporation Commission spokeswoman Rebecca Wilder said it may be some time before the five-member panel which regulates Arizona's utilities decides how to respond to the ruling.

Bob Stump, one of three commissioners who voted for the project, said Wednesday that he was disappointed in the decision ``to hinder Arizona's quest for cost-effective, baseload renewable energy.''

Stump said the Environmental Protection Agency and more than 20 states classify waste-to-energy as renewable energy and ``there are some 400 plants throughout Europe and over 85 plants in the United States.''

``In spite of the widespread use of this mainstream technology throughout the world, it has been shamelessly demagogued as `dirty trash burning' by those who believe it's a threat to politically-favored forms of renewable energy,'' Stump added.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit last September challenging the commission's decision to allow trash burning to be considered a renewable energy resource.

``This decision is good news for clean renewable energy such as solar and wind,'' said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter. ``Promoting polluting and dated technologies such as burning trash to produce electricity would be a step backward for Arizona's renewable energy programs.''

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