Renewable energy item ordered onto Mo. ballot

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Backers of a proposal requiring Missouri utilities to use more renewable energy said Monday a state judge has ordered the measure be placed on the November ballot.

The secretary of state's office in August determined that supporters of the renewable energy measure had fallen short in their petition drive to place the question before voters. Missourians for Cleaner Cheaper Energy sued to challenge the finding. And Jim Kottmeyer, a spokesman for the group, said Monday that a Cole County judge had sided with the group.

The measure would require utilities to use solar, wind, biomass and hydropower for at least 2 percent of the electricity they sell by 2011. By 2021, renewable energy sources would need to be used for at least 15 percent of electricity production -- of which at least 2 percent would need to be solar power. The measure would cap any utility rate increases to comply with the mandate at 1 percent.

Election authorities initially determined that the renewable energy measure was 526 signatures short of the 14,860 needed in the 3rd Congressional District.

To make the ballot, initiative petitions changing state law must have signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the 2004 governor election in each of six of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

Kottmeyer said supporters will now need to work extra hard to educate voters before the election on Nov. 4. He said the ballot measure would promote cleaner energy sources and spur economic development and job creation.

"We know an education campaign has to go on, but we think that fundamentally the state and voters of the state are supportive of clean energy," Kottmeyer said.

Supporters of the renewable energy ballot measure had contended in their lawsuit that local election authorities wrongly discarded valid signatures.

Two other initiative petitions also have been certified for the ballot. One would bar the construction of new casinos while repealing a unique Missouri law that limits gambling losses to $500 per two-hour period. The second would allow home health care workers to unionize.

Supporters of two proposed constitutional amendments restricting the use of eminent domain dropped a lawsuit seeking to get the petitions on the ballot after the secretary of state's office determined they hadn't collected enough signatures.

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