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Corp Comm candidates doubt human role in climate change

Republican corporation commission candidates debate issues Monday at KAET-TV. From left: Al Melvin, Boyd Dunn, Andy Tobin, Rick Gray, Bob Burns, with host Ted Simons (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Republican corporation commission candidates debate issues Monday at KAET-TV. From left: Al Melvin, Boyd Dunn, Andy Tobin, Rick Gray, Bob Burns, with host Ted Simons (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Four of the five Republican candidates for Arizona Corporation Commission said Monday night they’re not convinced that human activity contributes to climate change.

“I don’t see the evidence of it,” said Rick Gray in the live televised debate. “Where are the facts?”

Host Ted Simons of KAET asked Gray if he was discounting what’s been said by many scientists.

“I’m just saying we have not seen all the evidence,” he responded.

“I don’t think it’s been proven absolutely for me,” said former judge Boyd Dunn. He said it’s a good thing that Arizona, unlike some other states, has a diversity of power sources, including coal.

Former state Sen. Al Melvin said there’s been climate change “since the beginning of time and I would suppose that is the situation as opposed to man-made problems.” He also took a slap at the Obama administration’s policies, saying the move to shut coal-fired plants is political.

Current commissioner Bob Burns also expressed skepticism of human-caused climate change.

“I have a hard time believing that when you can have a volcano go off and create more pollution than we can deal with for who knows how long,” he said.

Only Andy Tobin, also on the commission, said it would be foolish to believe that humans are not affecting climate.

“It’s hard to argue that all the asphalt that humans have put down in the city of Phoenix hasn’t done something to increase the heat here,” Tobin said. And the same is true, he said, of other activities, including greenhouse gases.

“We’re burning these things so I do think it’s impactful,” he said. “The question is, to what extent?”

The views of commissioners are significant since they have purview over regulations which now require utilities to obtain at least 15 percent of their power from alternate “clean” sources like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025. The commission can not only increase or decrease that mandate but also is deciding what costs utilities can impose on homeowners who install rooftop solar.

Only three of the contenders will advance to the general election where they will face Democrats Bill Mundell and Tom Chabin.

As anticipated, the debate provoked some fireworks over the ongoing contention by Burns that Arizona Public Service secretly helped finance independent campaigns which spend $3.2 million in 2014 to elect Republicans Tom Forese and Doug Little.

Among this year’s candidates, Burns is alone in wanting new rules to require utilities to disclose their political spending. He said he’s the only one looking for “transparency.”

But Burns found himself under attack for his decision last week to hire an attorney, at public expense, to take a closer look at the influences affecting the commission’s decisions, including political donations.

Gray said there is no evidence that the votes of either Forese or Little have been affected by that outside spending. So far APS has refused to deny that it is was the source of those dollars.

What is happening, Gray charged, is that Burns is trying to make up for his lack of funds by making an issue out of APS’ possible spending. Now, he said, that includes a contract to pay a lawyer up to $95,000 to poke around, “which gives him (free) press.”

“There’s just an obvious questionable appearance,” Gray charged.

“This just didn’t come up before the election started,” Burns shot back.

“I’ve been working on this for almost two years,” he continued. “This cloud has been hanging over this commission for at least two years.”

“You created the cloud,” Gray interjected.

“No, APS created this cloud,” Burns responded.

Tobin, who opposes Burns’ efforts to force utilities to disclose political donations, questioned why all the attention now on a two-year-old race.

“So they’re guilty,” he said. “What do you want to do about it?”

It remains to be seen whether the other commissioners will try to overturn or modify Burns’ decision to hire the attorney, which was approved by Jodi Jerich, the commission’s executive director.

Gray also took a slap at Burns for his complaints about spending by anonymous donors. He pointed out that Burns this year is the beneficiary of some outside spending.

But the “robocalls” and mailers for Burns have disclosed their dollars are coming from SolarCity, which is engaged in an ongoing battle with several utilities over how much the commission will force their customers to pay to the power companies. By contrast, the two groups that spent money in 2014 on behalf of Forese and Little have pointedly refused to disclose the source of their dollars, saying they are organized as “social welfare” organizations exempt from state campaign finance laws.

Former Republican commissioner Kris Mayes, who did the robocall for Burns, said there was a “deliberate decision” to be transparent on the source of the funds.

Candidates have no control over independent outside expenditures. But Burns said he has publicly asked other groups not to provide such help.

Gray, Melvin and Tobin are running as a team for the three available seats.

12 comments

  1. Never, ever wonder why Arizona leads the list as the Dumbest State.
    Denial of: Climate change, Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights et al.
    Do not wonder why the world laughs at us. Thank you Brewer, Ducey,
    Kelli Ward ad nauseum.

  2. Thank you Andy Tobin for a voice of reason.

    To the other candidates … will you stop repeating political ideology! Discounting human impact on our environment does defy the very logical reasoning we depend on you to make well informed decisions in the best interests of Arizonans.

  3. Incumbent ACC candidate Bob Burns has attempted to present himself as a reformer, as someone who will stand up to APS. Coincident with the upcoming election and early primary ballots going out in the mail, Burns announced that he (with ACC/taxpayer funds, not his own) has hired an outside, independent lawyer (at $315/hr.) to investigate whether APS has undue influence at the ACC.

    1) Anyone with half a brain knows the answer to that already and doesn’t need a $315 per hour “investigation” to figure it out. APS parent Pinnacle West is the largest corporate political donor in the state, and there is a revolving door between ACC staff and APS ( http://www.sedona.biz/wp-content/uploads/20160501_woodward_The-ACC-APS-Revolving-Door.pdf )

    2) Burns has been at the ACC since the 2012 election and he’s just getting around to this now?

    3) Basically Burns, a career politician since 1989, is using taxpayer money to fund a re-election publicity stunt.

    4) In violation of conflict of interest law, Burns was a lobbyist for companies he regulates at the ACC. I totally nailed him on it but the corrupt AZ Supreme Court declined to act on my filing. For that conflict of interest issue alone Burns does not deserve to be returned to office. ( http://www.sedona.biz/wp-content/uploads/20160210_woodward_Burns-ACC-Usurper-Case-Taken-to-AZ-Supreme-Court.pdf )

    5) In two ACC issues I have followed closely and actively participated in, “smart” meters and the CenturyLink “facility relocation” add-on fee, Burns sided with corporate, not ratepayers, despite huge public outcries on both issues. He voted in favor of the undeserved CenturyLink fee, and he voted to extort a fee from ratepayers not wanting a “smart” meter.

    Indeed, on May 1st, 2013 Burns wrote an opinion piece in the Sedona Red Rock News parroting the APS “smart” meter line and valuing money over health and privacy. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote him in reply back then:

    Amazingly, you reveal yourself to be more concerned about APS’s bottom line than with people’s health and privacy. In your article you mention a meeting you attended in Sedona in which people expressed health and privacy concerns regarding “smart” meters. Yet your response is that “… perhaps an important fact is getting lost in the discussion – namely, that the digital meters represent a significant cost savings to the utility, a savings, that, in turn, gets passed on to its customers.”

    “Significant cost savings”? Do tell us exactly how much ratepayers will save per month? Substantiate your claim. Show us some numbers based on real life, not APS propaganda. If the cost savings are “significant” as you claim, then it should be easy for you to tell us specifically.
    ( http://images.edocket.azcc.gov/docketpdf/0000144752.pdf )

    Several times since I wrote that in 2013 I challenged Burns to show everyone the savings he said would be “passed on” to customers. Of course I never heard from him because there are no savings and never will be. The entire “smart” grid is huge boondoggle. Higher rates are what gets “passed on” wherever it’s installed, and Arizona is no exception now that APS is asking for an 8% rate hike in their pending rate case.

    Turn Burns out. He’s burned ratepayers enough already.

  4. These befogged Republicans also believe — or so they say — that utility rate hikes also are not due to human agency, that they’re merely the consequence of a mythical market. Yet they demonstrate that campaign contributions have everything to do with them. Like everything else they say, a massive contradiction!

    Sad sacks, all. If we had a more aggressive media, they and their unspoken initiative to Treat Utility Regulation Like Typical Political Corruption would be laughed right off of the ballot.

    Hopefuly Arizonans will wake up and boot these guys out of Phoenix and over the horizon, where they belong.

  5. http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2016/08/09/corp-comm-candidates-doubt-human-role-in-climate-change/
    “But Burns found himself under attack for his decision last week to hire an attorney, at public expense, to take a closer look at the influences affecting the commission’s decisions, including political donations.”

    Accountability to the ratepayers under the ACC is already a topic of debate. Transparency suffers further without a commission process. The public of Arizona are probably unaware that an Arizona Utility can completely remove itself (via use of law firms and lobbyists) from burdensome ACC governance and scrutiny. When an Arizona Utility converts itself into to a “Political Subdivision or Special Improvement District”, it is no longer beholden to ACC purview and may engage in costly and unethical legal pursuits, needing to raise it’s rates year after year to fund these pursuits, and further may not choose to list expiring board seats in upcoming elections. Sad but true, and what hope can the ratepayers have of a fair shake when the deck is stacked against them in ways they aren’t aware of. Would it take an Arizona Supreme Court decision to close this loophole of public accountability and restore ratepayer faith?

    http://azcapitoltimes.com/azlobbyists/2016/03/02/the-week-of-february-29-2016/
    Excerpted From Public List of Terminated Lobbyists; The Week of February 29, 2016

    MICHAEL W BLOCK
    METROPOLITAN DOMESTIC WATER IMPROVEMENT DIST. OF PIMA COUNTY IN TUCSON
    1700 W WASHINGTON 8TH FL
    PHOENIX, AZ 85007
    Start Date: 1/11/99
    End Date: 2/19/16

    GALLAGHER & KENNEDY PA
    METROPOLITAN DOMESTIC WATER IMPROVEMENT DIST. OF PIMA COUNTY IN TUCSON
    2575 E CAMELBACK RD STE 1100
    PHOENIX, AZ 85016
    Start Date: 1/11/99
    End Date: 2/19/16

    CHARLIE MAISH
    METROPOLITAN DOMESTIC WATER IMPROVEMENT DIST. OF PIMA COUNTY IN TUCSON
    7235 N PASEO DEL NORTE
    TUCSON, AZ 85704
    Start Date: 1/11/99
    End Date: 2/19/16

    WARREN TENNEY
    METROPOLITAN DOMESTIC WATER IMPROVEMENT DIST. OF PIMA COUNTY IN TUCSON
    P.O. BOX 35421
    TUCSON, AZ 85704
    Start Date: 1/11/99
    End Date: 2/19/16

    metrowatertucson.com

  6. @wolkove It’s rational when your political survival depends on protecting producers of fossil fuels who fund your election and are, in fact, the only people that you really care about serving. That’s why most of those who set policy at the ACC, the commissioners, are often referred to in knowledgeable circles as “private servants.” Beggars. Toadies. Puppets.

  7. Not likely (a Supreme Court prohibition on utility-regulators’ revolving door) once Ducey’s done packing the Court. That (among a variety of special interests) is why he’s packing the Court.

    It’s called “doubling down” on deceit.

  8. Climate Change’ does not meet the threat assessment test. 1 .what are the greatest threats facing humanity today 2 what can you do about them; It is a very low hurdle to prove 10,000 years of civilization influences the climate, showing that ‘influence will lead to Catastrophe in either the near or long term is a greatly different thing, especially when natural events can and have Swamped our ‘influence completely. The Atmosphere recovers from those events, ( and hardly all of our influence is toward heating, our influence also cools ) and finally …3 No one can show that spending Trillions of dollars ‘fighting’ climate change, will make any more difference than spending a single DIME. and thats the truth. There are very real problems that can be SOLVED, ( like the threat of EMPs) but time and resources are being wasted on Climate Change for the benefit of a few that profit from fear-mongering.

  9. Andrew Lane aka Captain PLaneT

    Half Baked Heathens is what I call Climate Deniers like the likely Trumpsters Brian Corn and the majority of the ACC Candidates. How hard is it to understand that we little humans are collectively doing our best to scrape up every last bit of Fossil Fools which have been buried for a few hundred million years. Then we burn them to make energy which makes air pollution and puts Green House Gasses back into the atmosphere where they haven’t been for a few hundred million years. This of course modifiers and alters the atmosphere to return to what it was like a few hundred million years ago. Hmmm I don’t think there were any humans around back then to write about how absolutely miserable it was.

  10. Andrew Lane aka Captain PLaneT

    In case the Ostriches in the Room up there want to learn about Climate Reality and come on down off BS Mountain.

    If you don’t have time to watch the extremely worthwhile full 3 hour series here is one key segment if you dare broach the topic of Climate Change at all: From Penn State’s Dr Richard Alley Earth: The Operator’s Manual the 2.5 minute “Flavors of CO2” . This really helps me explain this portion.

    “It’s Just the Volcanoes…”

    http://earththeoperatorsmanual.com/main-video/how-to-talk-to-an-ostrich

  11. How can grown men be that ignorant? Or…are they being paid to pretend they’re stupid? And who would do that?

    Follow the money trail, dear reporters.

    Then we have this amazing statement signed by what appear to be lobbyists for a certain large utility: “When an Arizona Utility converts itself into to a ‘Political Subdivision or Special Improvement District’, it is no longer beholden to ACC purview and may engage in costly and unethical legal pursuits,…”

    “Political Subdivision or Special Improvement District” describes the Salt River Project, which charges homeowners significantly less than the privately owned Arizona Public Service, did not spearhead an expensive and questionable nuclear plant, and does not seem to be in business to charge every penny the market will bear and then some.

    Presumably they figure everyone else in the state is as dumb as our corporation commissioners.

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