Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Net Metering and conflict of interest; glossed over by the Arizona Republic

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. -- James Madison, August 4, 1822 (from DOLLAROCRACY by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney)
Yesterday, Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts set forth, plainly and with crystal clarity, the brazen conflict of interest that Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce has on the upcoming vote regarding Arizona Public Service's net metering question.
On Tuesday, former Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy formally asked that Commissioner Gary Pierce recuse himself from the coming vote on solar subsidies, “due to his relationship with Arizona Public Service.”
In a nutshell, Kennedy, a Democrat who plans to run next year to regain her spot on the commission, believes that APS is attempting to buy the Republican commissioner’s vote by either hiring his employer for contract work or agreeing to help his son, Rep. Justin Pierce, in his bid for secretary of state.
“It’s a shame,” Kennedy told me. “I think APS has basically said, ‘Hey we’re going to do what we can and if Commissioner Pierce is willing to play ball with us, he’s in our court.’ ”
In today's Republic, "journalist" Ryan Randazzo's story on the ACC open meeting contains ZERO coverage of Pierce's conflict of interest. ZERO! And the story is on Page A1.
Regulators appear poised to charge new solar customers $7 to $50 more a month despite a show of force Wednesday from the rooftop-panel industry and solar customers at the Arizona Corporation Commission.
The regulators spent all of Wednesday, the first of two days of hearings on the issue, listening to public comment from more than 100 people, most of whom opposed any cost increases. They are expected to make a final decision on the issue today.
The high stakes surrounding the debate were evident when hundreds of solar supporters, who believe that a change would threaten the industry, showed up at Corporation Commission headquarters on West Washington Street in Phoenix, waving signs, shouting slogans and encouraging passing drivers to honk their horns in support.
Four of the five regulators have indicated through written proposals that they support adding fees to Arizona Public Service Co. solar users, although the fees they suggest are not as high as those sought by the utility. [...]
Former state Republican senator Russell Pearce also spoke in favor of the APS plan. “To manipulate the free market is wrong,” he said.
“I do not believe government has the right to pick winners and losers.”
Renz Jennings, a former Democratic commissioner who lost a 2010 bid to rejoin the panel, said arguments from politicians related to free enterprise were off the mark.
“There is little free enterprise here; we all know that,” Jennings said. “This is a regulated industry.”
He said many of the benefits of rooftop solar are not being calculated in the current debate. He said that any changes to solar policies should be handled in a full rate case for APS, at which the regulators could take a deeper look at APS’ finances and expenses to better understand solar.
Randazzo makes it overwhelmingly clear he serves the interests of APS, not the readers and citizens of Arizona with this next statement.
The crux of the net-metering debate is what APS refers to as a cost shift that occurs when customers install solar and dramatically reduce their bills.
NO that is not the CRUX of the net-metering debate. Since when does APS get to define the issue? Instead, the crux really is what this net-metering debate means to the citizens of Arizona. Instead of confronting the conflict of interest he makes APS's interest the bottom line.

Randazzo then touched on certain proposals set forth by members of the ACC.
Four commissioners have filed proposals to the case record that would adapt one of the staff- or RUCO-generated plans and begin adding fees to new solar customers.
Chairman Bob Stump proposed an amendment that would add about $22 a month for solar customers. He said waiting until the next APS rate case is “not in the public interest.”
Commissioner Brenda Burns proposed an alternative similar to Stump’s, as well proposing an addition to the contract that solar customers sign that would make it clear that commissioners may change the regulations and eliminate any savings provided by their solar panels.
Commissioner Gary Pierce proposed adopting a plan similar to those by Stump and Burns with “more realistic” inputs that would add about $50 a month for a 7-kilowatt solar array, a common-size system in APS territory. 
We have had months of anticipation leading up to this hearing. The deregulation story over the summer months was rife with Dark Money spending by APS -- millions of dollars they had received from ratepayers -- funneled into a non-profit to pay for ad campaigns. Millions of ratepayer dollars trying to gin up public support for killing deregulation and to undermine net metering.

No, the crux of this story is Ryan Randazzo completely blowing coverage of a regulated utility manipulating the regulators to protect its monopoly, thereby killing Arizona's most obvious competitive economic advantage -- solar energy. And Randazzo was FULLY aware of the Dark Money scandal. He shared a byline with investigative reporter Robert Anglen on that series of stories.

It is TIME to give Ryan Randazzo his walking papers and get someone who can serve the public interest by reporting on the Arizona Corporation Commission without glossing over the information Arizona citizens need to make informed decisions on who to have represent us in setting utility rates.

And while they are at it, whoever was responsible for defining Randazzo's assignments and setting expectations for coverage probably needs to find other work also.

Let's give Founding Father James Madison one less reason to roll over in his grave.


  1. So, am I to understand that those who choose solar have to now pay a "surtax" to APS because they use less electricity generated by APS? Isn't ACC then picking APS over the people of Arizona?

  2. Thus far, to my knowledge, no decision has yet been made by the Corp Comm. All we have is the Arizona Republic's chief ACC and APS boot licker having reported that he believes they WILL decide to require solar users pay such a fee.

    My immediate recommendation is for people to call the Republic and demand they replace Randazzo with a seasoned reporter who will not be such a brown noser. The main phone number for the Republic is 602-444-1000. Ask for the publisher's office.

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