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Missouri Supreme Court rules against utility in Solar Rebate Cas - KOAM TV 7

Missouri Supreme Court rules against utility in Solar Rebate Case; Empire issues statement

Updated:
COLUMBIA, MISSOURI -

In a 5-2 decision released today by the Missouri Supreme Court, Renew Missouri and Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) won their appeal from the Public Service Commission against EmpireDistrict Electric Company. The ruling is final, and erases a law that Empire claimed gave them an exemption from offering solar rebates to its customers.

"This ruling legally clarifies that as of today, more than six years after a majority of Empire's own customers voted to require them to do so, Empire must offer solar rebates," said PJ Wilson, Director of Renew Missouri.

The court's ruling relied largely on the fact that the state legislature tried to preempt a statewide ballot initiative known as Proposition C, passed with over 66 percent of the popular vote in November 2008. The legislature passed House Bill 1181 in May 2008, which said that Empire would be exempt from any solar requirements should they be created in the future. But the court concluded that the so-called Empire exemption "was repealed by the passage of Proposition C", since Proposition C passed after the legislature's action and required all publicly regulated utilities,including Empire Electric Company, offer solar rebates to their customers starting January 2010.

The court explained in their ruling "the legislature could not preemptively negate the effect of the initiative before it had even been voted on by the people and make the people's later vote ameaningless act..."

Plaintiffs were represented by Henry Robertson with the nonprofit Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, based in St Louis. "This is a validation of the initiative petition process, and clarifies that the legislature can't subvert the will of the people before they even get a chance to vote on an issue," said Robertson about the decision.

"Today is a win for Missouri voters and clean energy jobs, especially in Southwest Missouri," said Heather Navarro, Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. "Empire customers will now enjoy the same economic benefits of solar energy as seen elsewhere in Missouri."

While Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light have supplied over $175 million in solar incentives in the St Louis and Kansas City areas since 2010, Empire Electric Company has yet to offer the rebates to their customers as required by law.

More information about the ruling can be found at http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=83613. Renew Missouri is a Columbia, Missouri based nonprofit with a mission to transform Missouri into a leading state in energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2016.

Statement from Empire:  

"The Empire District Electric Company is still reviewing the Missouri Supreme Court's Decision that was issued on February 10, 2015, and has not yet determined its next steps. It is EDE's understanding that the Decision will not be final for at least 15 days. Thereafter, the matter may return to the Missouri Public Service Commission for further action related to the underlying PSC case. "

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