Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

December 6, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Law and Sustainability


  • Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes discusses her role as director of the new Program on Law and Sustainability at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Guests:
  • Kris Mayes - Arizona Corporation Commissioner
Category: Sustainability

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Tonight on "Horizon" -- We'll hear from Kris Mayes, as she prepares to leave the corporation commission and take charge of an new ASU program that combines law and sustainability. And we'll learn more about a newly discovered form of life. That suggests the possibility of a shadow biosphere could exist alongside the rest of us here on earth. That's coming up next, on "Horizon."
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.

Ted Simons:
Some tough action being recommended against former county attorney Andrew Thomas and one of his top aides. An investigator appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court to look into controversial actions by Thomas and former deputy county attorney Lisa Aubuchon is recommending that both be disbarred. Investigator John Gleason found in his report that Thomas, Aubuchon and another lawyer under Thomas violated 32 ethics rules. They include filing a frivolous lawsuit, misrepresentation, dishonesty and conflicts of interest. Gleason also alleges that the lawyers filed lawsuits against county officials for no other reason than to burden or embarrass those officials. And the report finds that Thomas and Aubuchon engaged in possible criminal conduct.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer will be attending a United States Supreme Court hearing on Arizona's employer sanctions law Wednesday. The high court will hear arguments on both sides of the law, which allows the state to revoke or suspend the licenses of businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Arizona State University's law school is starting a new program aimed at educating students on sustainability and the law. Kris Mayes, the chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission, will become the faculty director for the new program. And she'll take over when her term on the Commission ends early next year. Joining us now to talk about all of this is, oddly enough, Kris Mayes.

Kris Mayes:
Good to see you.

Ted Simons:
Describe this new program at ASU.

Kris Mayes:
We're creating a long sustainability program within the Sandra Day O'Connor. And creating one of the programs in the country, certainly, the first that's going object connected to the only school of sustainability in the country, which is at ASU. And we want to make the ASU law school the go-to place for corporations, for nonprofits and for governments that are looking to navigate the various laws and regulations surrounding sustainability. That are looking to become more sustainable themselves and a lot of that has to do with understanding the laws and regulations around renewable energy, energy efficiency and transmission and all of those things. And we're going to do a lot of things around this program. But that's -- that sort of is the core of it and we want to provide a great education to lawyers coming out of Arizona, in the area of sustainability.

Ted Simons:
Teaching students about water regulation and power regulation and where do they take that from there?

Kris Mayes:
That's a great question. One of my objectives with this program is to not only provide the students with a great education, but to make sure they have a job at the end of it and more and more corporations are hiring lawyers who are capable of understanding energy efficiency and renewable and solar and all of these issues and we want to make the connection between the law school and the business community and want to create new degree programs and create joint J.D. and Ph.D. programs between the law school and the school of sustainability and we want to create and put on seminars that will attract experts from across the country and for that matter, throughout the world on the issue of sustainability.
Ted Simons:
Is there -- I'm guessing there is, because that's why the program's in development here, seems to be a lack of folks coming out of law school who understand these sorts of -- it sounds like energy is such a hot topic, not enough lawyers to figure this out?

Kris Mayes:
Well, I don't want to get into the lawyer jokes, but you know, to be quite serious, the answer is yes. I mean, you know, it is a hot topic. More and more states, more and more countries are focused on sustainability. We have, you know, 30 states that have renewable portfolio standards and 21, energy efficiency standards and all of that necessitates people who understand though laws and corporation are looking to become more sustainable themselves and they've got to understand the laws and how to put those laws and regulation to use for them and for the citizens of their state.

Ted Simons:
Give us an example, a real-world example of someone who will go to this college and get this education, this knowledge, this degree and they work for X and do Y.

Kris Mayes:
You can come up with any number of different examples. Someone who goes to work for a Intel or Honeywell that going to be shifting their business increasingly to providing understanding services and go to work for a utility that sees their core business as renewable energy. They might go to work for a city or a state or the United Nations, all increasingly involved in implementing sustainability at a local and global level. There are lots of different jobs, but we've got to begin to position ourselves and the lawyers for those jobs.

Ted Simons:
And I think some people get confused when we talk about sustainability. What does the world mean to you?

Kris Mayes:
That's a good question. It means a lot of things, but -- but at bottom, sustainability is the sort of coalescence of energy efficiency, renewable energy, technologies that are taking us to a less carbon intensive world and in addition to that, a world that is more free of socks and knocks and mercury and all of these emissions we know are difficult for society and in addition to that, a world that is one where rates are more stable because we're not dependent on foreign sources of oil. We're not dependent on fossil fuels and we're more secure because we have moved toward these more sustainable technologies, and frankly, it's about the new energy economic. One of the things I'm proud of what we've done in Arizona is we've recognized this is our future. This is Arizona's economic destiny and we need to do more to promote it.

Ted Simons:
I was going to ask you regarding the corporation commission, now days are numbered there as chair, what are you most proud of as far as achievements and is there something that just bugs you? That you just couldn't get done?

Kris Mayes:
I'm so proud of this commission and the people who work there. We have some of the best people in the state of Arizona working at the Arizona Corporation Commission and it's the best job in Arizona, I believe. But I'm proud that we made Arizona a leader in -- in sustainability. We passed an ambitious energy renewable standard and energy efficiency and put Arizona on a path that 10 or 20 years now we'll look back and say, you know what? That commission worked hard and knew what they were doing, and had a vision and executed on it. I'm proud of that what do I wish we could have done? Oh, boy, there's a long list. I wish we could have done more on transmission. There's a lot of work to do on transmission to build the solar and wind projects we have in the desert and high country we need to get done.

Ted Simons:
Any advice for the new commissioners?

Kris Mayes:
Boy, that's a minefield. But I would say keep working hard and keep focused on the standards. We've got them in place, but it's about the execution. We can't take our eye off the ball and -- and we may have -- we've set the course but now the really tough work begins.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Congratulations on the new position. I'm sure we'll hear more from you as the years go by.

Kris Mayes:
I hope so.

Ted Simons:
Thank you, Kris.

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