Whistle blower: Former Arizona Utility Regulator Threatened Him Not to Reveal Inappropriate Activity

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce

Former ACC Chairman Gary Pierce accused of secret meetings with utility heads.

Former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission Gary Pierce held about a dozen private meetings with executives of APS, the state’s largest electrical utility (and which is regulated by the ACC) — many of which took place while the commission was considering proposed rate hikes for APS customers, according to a letter written by an ACC employee who reported directly to Piece. The letter was addressed to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Susan Bitter Smith, current ACC chair, and ACC executive director, Jodi Jerich and sent on February 13, 2015.

The whistle blower, who has not been publicly identified, also claimed that Pierce ordered him to exert pressure on authorities to expedite paperwork to incorporate the Conservative Business League, a political consulting firm. CBL’s website lists Ron Ludders and Bob Thomas as directors of the firm.

According to the letter, on October 4, 2012, a month before elections for ACC commissioners, “Mr. Ludders reiterated how important it was that the filing be processed as soon as possible because they had checks to cash.” In the letter, the whistle blower writes, “Mr. Ludders said they had $186,000 in checks to destroy Commissions [Paul] Newman and [Sandra] Kennedy. He did so while patting the pocket of his suit jacket.”

2012 campaign sign for the "Solar Team."

2012 campaign sign for the “Solar Team.”

Democrats Newman and Kennedy, who billed themselves as part of a “solar team,” lost the November election.

The whistle blower thought nothing more of Ludders earlier comments until reading a December 11 news article about a “hit piece” mailer against the pro-solar pair, that, according the article, cost $186,000. In November 2013, the now all-GOP commission approved a measure allowing APS to impose a fee for customers with solar panels. APS proposed charging solar customers $8.00 per kilowatt — about $50 a month for a typical residential system. The commission instead imposed a fee of $.70 per kilowatt. Critics charge that although the new fee is small, it sets a precedent for future hikes which will discourage prospective customers from installing rooftop solar power.

The ACC whistle blower charged that in August of 2014 he told then-ACC Chairman Bob Stump about the improper meetings between Pierce and APS, his suspicions over “the dark money that funded the hit piece,” and other cases of “abuse of authority by current and ex officio members” of the ACC.

He ends his letter by stating that “to my knowledge nothing has been done with the information I provided.”

The man who heard thScreenClipe list of charges last summer, ACC commissioner Bob Stump, issued a statement last week saying, “Rest assured that this Commission takes all allegations seriously and I am confident that a through investigation will be conducted.”

In a twitter exchange in January, I asked Commissioner Stump about earlier charges of dark money influencing the ACC elections. Why not force donor disclosure? I asked. Stump didn’t answer directly, suggesting I track down his previous interviews and then dismissed the issue as “old campaign-stunt news.”



Climate Smart Southwest – Conference

September 20 and 21 in Tucson, Arizona


xl8njrm0This conference is being organized by the Arizona Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) with the support of a coalition of co-sponsoring community and national organizations as well as local leaders. The purpose is to build new and fortify existing cross-cultural, community, and governmental partnerships to educate and engage community action to address the anticipated public health impacts of climate change in the Southwest.

Why It’s Very Important: Extreme weather events in the Southwestern U.S. and adjacent Borderlands are on the rise and with them, higher incidences of health-related impacts such as heat stress, newly emerging infectious diseases, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Moreover, as the “hottest, driest part of the United States,” our region is already experiencing longer and more intense heat waves and the threat of wide scale power blackouts, a “dramatic spike” in forest fires, severe dust storms, and changes in the amount and timing of rainfall and seasonal snowmelt that threatens water resources and food security. While these events are alarming, communities in the Southwest are preparing for these risks and other impacts outlined in the new National Climate Assessment through planning and prevention strategies aimed at reducing our vulnerability to extreme weather and local climate impacts.

Who Should Attend: Community and neighborhood leaders, formal and informal educators, citizen activists, government and non-profit agency personnel; Climate scientists, and health professionals in the Southwestern U.S. Northern Mexico, and First Nations who have an interest in community based action for preparedness to develop more resilient neighborhoods, towns, cities, borders regions, and tribal lands; National leaders and members of PSR, environmental groups, and policy making agency representatives.

For more information or to register for the conference, click here.

via Conference: Climate Smart Southwest.

Solar Battle Heats Up in Arizona

Solar Action at the State Capitol

Solar Action at the State Capitol

From the Arizona Republic:

About 100 solar-industry workers protested at the state Capitol on Tuesday, hoping to draw interest in a battle with Arizona Public Service Co. that could alter the rooftop-solar industry in the state.

APS has proposed changing the way it gives new customers credit for the electricity their solar panels send to the power grid. The changes would not affect the 18,000 current APS customers with solar, or those who have a reservation to get their panels by Oct. 15.

SolarCity Corp., a California rooftop-solar company, is leading the opposition, but representatives from a variety of solar companies, including REC Solar, Wilson Electric and Kyocera were present Tuesday.

Under tents on the Capitol grounds, they spoke to the media about the importance of solar. Some carried signs supporting the industry, and most wore solar-company logos.

“It’s frightening and disappointing to think that solar energy in Arizona could be undermined by APS,” said Mark Holohan, solar-division manager at Wilson Electric in Tempe. “Arizona’s monopoly utilities are attempting to limit solar due to fears about competition.”

via Solar-industry workers protest at state Capitol.