House panel approves new financial hurdle for some solar, wind projects; Rose Law Group Co-founder Court Rich outlines the negative impacts

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

A House panel voted Friday to erect a new financial hurdle in the path of some future solar and wind projects in Arizona.

But proponents say it is necessary to preserve cattle ranching in Arizona.

HB 2411 would make it illegal to construct either solar or wind operations on state or federal land that is currently leased for grazing. It would, however, allow a project to continue — but only if the rancher holding the lease would be compensated by the new occupants for loss of profits.

Most significant, the measure approved on a 5-4 margin by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has no cap on the amount that would have to be paid — and for how many years. And Mike Gardner, lobbyist for the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association said that, as worded, HB 2411 would require those payments to continue “in perpetuity.”

The vote followed the testimony of Safford rancher Mark Brawley, who said there already has been an application by a solar company to lease 20,000 acres of land from the Bureau of Land Management on which he currently has a permit to graze cattle.

He pegged his anticipated future financial loss from losing that much land at $2 million. Beyond that, he said the loss of that acreage, about 30% of his grazing, might make the operation run by his family for generations no longer financially viable.

“It’s not anti-solar,” Jeff Eisenberg, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Growers Association, said of the measure.


“This bill has too many issues to even list them all. This unusual bill creates a special subsidy for the grazing industry that isn’t available to any other business. Under this massive subsidy, if a solar or wind user offers the state land department to pay more for state land than an underlying grazing lease, then the solar and wind developer would have to pay the party holding the grazing lease lost profits forever.’

‘Furthermore, and without any explanation, this bill requires developers of low cost solar and wind to be the only businesses in the state that would be required to pay this subsidy if they displace grazing on public lands. If this were passed, then any business in the state could displace a grazing lease and not have any issue, but, if a solar or wind use ends up displacing a grazing lease, the holder of the grazing lease would receive lost profits forever.”

-Rose Law Group Co-founder Court Rich

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February 2023