2 Solar Installers Sue State of Arizona For Imposing Industry-Crippling Property Tax
Two solar panel installers filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) this week charging that the state is illegally imposing a property tax on residents who lease solar energy systems.
In April 2013, ADOR reviewed a 2009 law exempting property owners from an additional solar property tax so long as they own the panels on their home or business. Panel lessees shouldn't be granted the same tax break, ADOR ruled. Now, SolarCity and Sunrun believe the department's review of the law is not only illegal but crippling to the industry's growth in Arizona.
“This would absolutely be the end for solar in Arizona,” Bryan Miller, Sunrun’s vice president of public policy and power markets, told the Phoenix Business Journal. “It would burden those solar owners with a large tax increase that they were promised would never happen by top policy makers.”
On average, the tax is estimated to cost $150 for homeowners who lease their panels. That tax would also apply to business owners, schools and nonprofits who signed lease agreements for solar panels.
According to AZCentral, the two companies face millions in taxes, though their lease agreements would pass that responsibility on to homeowners. Still, the lawsuit uses the law's own words against ADOR.
“[The Arizona legislature] has made it clear that the subject property, when used ‘primarily for on-site consumption’ of the electricity generated by such property, is ‘considered to have no value and to add no value’ to the property on which it is installed, and thus it should not be separately assessed for property tax purposes,” according to the suit.
However, ADOR's interpretation of the law signed by Gov. Jan Brewer likens a rooftop solar system to a solar plant that is taxable.
“I think what’s important to Arizona law is even if somehow the court would find any ambiguity, even though there isn’t, there’s a long-standing principle that ambiguity has to be construed in favor of the rate payer, meaning no taxes,” Miller said. “It’s a great well-founded principle of Arizona law, known as an anti-tax state.”
According to the business journal, Foster City, CA-based SolarCity is Arizona's top solar company, installing 43,000 kilowatts worth of solar energy in 2013. It's also known as the nation's top installer with plans for the world's largest panel production plant.
The growing Texas solar industry is offering a safe harbor to unemployed oil and gas professionals amidst the latest oil and gas industry bust, this one brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reports.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>