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Renewable energy initiative petition ballot language faces legal battle

   

The ballot language of four initiative petitions related to renewable energy is up for debate in court. 

James Owen, on behalf of Missourians for Affordable and Clean Energy, filed a lawsuit in the Cole County Circuit Court against Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Auditor Nicole Galloway late last month. The four similar petitions seek to amend Missouri law regarding the renewable energy standard applicable to investor-owned utilities. 

The initiative petitions were filed in September and were approved by the secretary of state to circulate in mid-October. But Owen has taken issue with the wording of the fiscal note, specifically: 

“Additionally, state and local governmental entities anticipate possible increased costs of electricity, but the amount is unknown.”

Owen argued in the suit that the fiscal impact summary is “insufficient and unfair because it does not accurately state the fiscal consequences relating to the possible increased costs of electricity.” Owen pointed to a state statute that limits rate increases from renewable mandates to no more than an average of 1 percent per year. 

“Using this misleading and inaccurate language injects a level of uncertainty that may prejudice the voter against signing the initiative petition or, if it reaches the ballot in 2020, cause them to vote against the statutory amendments,” the lawsuit said. 

The suit suggested the fiscal note omit the “unknown” section and instead say: “The average annual rate impact to customers will not exceed one percent.” 

In her response to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 4, Galloway requested the court “dismiss the Amended Petition with prejudice.” 

A spokeswoman for Ashcroft declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.