Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, September 25, 2015

Hoping to win the war, APS concedes the battle?

Today, Arizona Public Service filed a 7-page motion to amend last month's Corporation Commission order seeking to dramatically increase the net metering fee it charges customers with rooftop solar. It begins,
In their most aggressive display of political gamesmanship to date, TASC [normally, the first use of an acronym in any document warrants spelling out the meaning. In this case, it's The Alliance for Solar Choice] and its allies have shown their true colors. Instead of taking the opportunity to prove their claims through sworn testimony, they have retreated to procedural tactics and character attacks designed to discredit elected officials and undermine the integrity of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The obvious goal is to paralyze the Commission. The rooftop solar leasing companies do not want to have a substantive discussion, especially not in a hearing where their representatives will be on the record and subject to cross examination. They can only continue to profit from artificial subsidies as long as they can continue to disrupt the regulatory process and prevent the Commission from considering the substance of rate design.
Now, how would YOU characterize that paragraph as the opening argument in a motion?

There might be other valid terms one could use, but for a company desperate to prevent public disclosure of the extent of its electioneering in 2012 and 2014, it seems abundantly clear that the terms subterfuge and misdirection, seem fitting. APS concludes its motion with a paragraph that includes this poignantly Orwellian statement,
APS offers this alternative to the Commission so that progress can continue to be made on these critical policies despite efforts by TASC and others to confuse, distract and delay.
TASC, the Checks and Balances Project, citizen journalists and other activists, advocates and investigative journalists all are all focused and intent on ensuring ONLY one thing. That the people have the opportunity to watch the Corporation Commission function in the light of day, rather than in secret.

Plutocrats and captured regulators squeal like pigs these days when they're caught undermining the law.

This, naturally, is nothing new. It's been going on in Arizona since before statehood, more than a century. That's why Article 15 was written into the original state constitution. Utility and other corporate interests have been working to hide facts and truth from the people ever since. They only succeed to the extent the people are kept in the dark.

In 2015, with democratic/egalitarian functioning of the World Wide Web, despite consolidation of corporate media, concerned citizens are able to teach each other and the larger electorate about the ramifications of regulatory capture.

With those pressures, local corporate media enterprises are both pressed to, and enabled to provide more legitimate coverage/reportage of key issues and problems. Such is the case with the September 1st filing of Tom Ryan's quo warranto complaint demanding ouster of Commission chair Susan Bitter Smith for violation of conflict of interest laws.

Two years have elapsed since this blog first reported on the concept of disruptive technological innovation. Arizona Public Service has vehemently resisted adapting to the disruptive environment of distributed (third-party rooftop solar) generation.

In the interim, major electric power utilities in Arizona have exercised political power to hinder adoption of said disruptive technologies. 

Corporate news outlets have recognized the problem of APS' Dark Money electioneering, sometimes going so far as to acknowledge the brazenness while still reluctantly hesitating to say out loud that APS has used ratepayer dollars to influence elections and decisions of the ACC.

It would be SO convenient, and an apparent relief to reporters and columnists who intuitively know the truth, if the financial records of APS were to be made public. Yet, if they really wanted to tell the truth, perhaps taking a minute risk, they could easily make sound and valid arguments that if APS had NOT engaged in ethically and morally repugnant conduct on these matters, they would have been forthcoming a long time ago and simply acknowledged or denied the charges.

They have done neither.

Then last Friday, local attorney Hugh Hallman filed three applications for rehearing the matter at hand. On Wednesday this week, the only Corporation Commissioner not currently operating under a cloud of direct conflict of interest, Bob Burns, sat with Arizona Horizon moderator Ted Simons for an 18-minute interview.

Even Simons, who doesn't usually get real pushy on issues where there are legitimate opposing views (i.e. when reasonable people can disagree), put Burns on the hot seat. To his credit, Burns (who looked like he had been through the wringer) answered all the questions without being defensive or evasive.

The next business day, APS' attorney worked up the motion linked at the top of this post and filed it early this morning (Friday).

APS' voice, in the opening paragraph, sounds incredibly like that of a petulant teenager caught in immature mischievous activity, rather than the voice of a well-reasoned legal argument.

This morning, Trash Burner Bob Stump who has been caught in a series of lies over the course of the last six months or so, posted this indignant tweet.

Isn't that special? Stumpy apparently can't allow his conscious mind to be aware of the fact that the Checks and Balances Project is simply functioning as a de facto investigative journalism enterprise. Would C&BP even have to do so if the Arizona Republic had been doing its job exposing the corruption at the ACC?

Nevertheless, today, APS appears to have conceded the battle. Don't expect it to give up on the war. Not until it begins taking serious and consistent steps to adapt to the new competitive environment rather than spending millions of dollars to exert political power to stifle the inevitable technological innovation.

The Arizona Republic reported on today's APS filing. Ryan Randazzo appeared on Horizon last night.

So did the Arizona Capitol Times, which quoted attorney Court Rich,
Court Rich, an attorney for TASC, said it’s great that APS decided to forgo its solar fee, but the accusations against solar groups are “really passive-aggressive.”
“It’s like the little kid stomping their foot going back to their room, but still doing what their parents told them to do,” Rich said.
Rich said he needs to analyze the utility’s idea for a cost of service hearing and what that would mean for solar before commenting on the merits of such a hearing. But he said APS’s move shows the utility knows increasing the solar fee outside of a rate case is wrong.
“APS is really going to be lecturing the solar industry on how to act and what to be doing? That’s ridiculous,” Rich said.

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