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Lawmaker's energy proposal stirs debate in Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. An Arizona proposal to prohibit local government mandates for energy-efficiency standards or green-energy use in new buildings is stirring debate.

State Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, said his bill is an attempt to hold down construction costs and let builders choose what features to include in new construction.

Some astronomers said the bill could hamper efforts to protect dark skies if it is read as barring local governments from requiring low-intensity outside lighting.

"In fairness, lighting isn't mentioned, but all it would take is for some person to argue light is energy, and that isn't a real stretch of physics," Lowell Observatory Director Jeff Hall said.

Meanwhile, some city and county officials oppose the bill on grounds that it would crimp local control, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

Crandell said the problem he's trying to address is that cities and counties adopt international energy codes that drive up the cost of a home under the assumption that the energy savings will pay for themselves in the long run.

"I think it ought to be an individual choice as to what the builder wants to put in," Crandell said.

Crandell said he would be willing to change his bill to add an exemption for dark-sky ordinances.

Hall was wary about a possible amendment, saying it would still require legal study to ensure it didn't impact astronomy.

Flagstaff City Councilmember Coral Evans said an amendment wouldn't be enough to eliminate her concerns.

The city is uniquely positioned as the international leader in dark skies, and astronomy supports an important segment of the city's economic base, she said.

"He and the proposed bill that he clearly supports will have very real and direct negative impacts to our city and our ongoing efforts to protect one of our most valuable economic resources our dark skies," Evans said.

The bill has cleared a Senate committee and awaits further legislative action.

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