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A letter from Scott Hempling to Commissioner Doug Little

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(Editors’ note: Upon the urging of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns, Maryland-based attorney Scott Hempling was hired by the commission to investigate outside influences on the regulatory agency. But Burns’ colleagues shot down the idea last week.)

To Doug Little, Chairman, Arizona Corporation Commission

At the Commission meeting of August 11, 2016, you stated there was some connection among myself, the Energy Foundation, SolarCity, former ACC Commissioner Kris Mayes and the re-election campaign of Commissioner Burns; and that such connection would affect my objectivity. It is said that “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” Please accept this letter as truth’s effort to get its boots on.

Scott Hempling

Scott Hempling

There is no connection – other than serendipity – among the facts you cited. Over my 32 years in regulatory law, I have worked for nearly every sector in the electric industry: investor-owned utilities, municipal power systems, rural cooperatives, wind energy companies, state commissions, state legislatures, governors, state energy offices, and non-governmental organizations. Ironically, despite the diversity of my practice I have never represented a solar company – although there would be no shame in doing so. And for what it’s worth, when in February 2015 I was asked to brief the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on solar energy, I made clear that what is often called a “cost shift” caused by rooftop solar was a legitimate concern warranting careful, fact-based attention.

Regarding SolarCity: Around 2014 I taught for that company a one-day internal seminar on utility law – a fact I disclosed to Commissioner Burns in an early conversation. This seminar was little different in substance, format and price from the dozens I have taught, publicly and privately, at varied venues, including twice each for the investor-owned utilities Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Northwestern Energy and once for the Arizona Corporation Commission. Indeed, the revenue I have earned over the years from investor-owned utilities is at least 10 times the fee I earned from the SolarCity seminar. I have, and have had, no financial or professional connection to the solar industry.

Regarding the Energy Foundation and Kris Mayes: The Energy Foundation has funded some small percentage of my work: twice indirectly as a funder of a client or employer; once directly, in the mid-1990s, to draft a paper on energy efficiency. At no time has anyone from that Foundation limited or even influenced my writings. The series of papers I wrote under the most recent arrangement, around 2012-2013, are on my website. I am unaware of any involvement by Ms. Mayes in my work. In fact I did not know of her connection to the Foundation until you mentioned it. I believe the only time I’ve interacted with Ms. Mayes was on a panel hosted by the National Governor’s Association a few years ago – where we disagreed, amicably, about some matter.

Based on your comments, several media outlets appear to have connected me to the solar industry incorrectly. Perhaps you know of the Chasidic tale I used to share with my Sunday school students. A parishioner had spoken falsely about his rabbi. On realizing his wrong, he asked the rabbi how he could make things right. The rabbi said: “Take a pillow to a mountain top, slit the pillow open and let the feathers scatter.” The man did so, descended back to town and informed the rabbi-who then said: “Now go gather the feathers.” I expect that you, like the man in this tale, will find that effort impossible, so I do not ask you to try. But I do ask that you take personal responsibility for how you extrapolate from facts – the better to gain and preserve the public’s trust in your actions as a commissioner.

Chairman Little, while you and I have never met, through our separate communications we have learned something about each other. If at any time you wish to continue our communications, and to put our relationship on a more positive plane, you will find no door more open than mine.

Sincerely,

Scott Hempling

4 comments

  1. APS/Pinnacle West makes greater political donations than any other corporation in the state. Does anyone think they do that because they are just generous? Corporations exist for Return On Investment. Those donations are an investment. Does anyone (other than Burns) think we need Hempling to see if there are “outside influences” at the ACC?

  2. Sure we need an independent investigation. What precisely are those outside influences on the ACC and what are their precise outcomes, so we can do something about it? Unless you believe that supine acceptance accompanied by bitching is sufficient recourse for us, we the citizens who must endure the ACC commissioners’ life of Riley and their claims of blissful ignorance, obviously paid for by the utility interests, investors, and their cohorts.

  3. My point, Sol, is that any thinking person knows there’s a problem already without an investigation. You just nailed it in your post. In my view, appropriate rules could be made at the ACC here and now. Fat chance of that happening with the current line-up of commissioners. Ultimately, as with most political problems, the blame falls on the voters for electing the current line-up in the first place.

  4. Sadly, an independent investigation will happen, with or without the Arizona Corporation Commissioners’ cooperation. Two subpoenas have been issued to APS’ parent company, Pinnacle West, by federal authorities. The proverbial grinding of the wheels of justice is growing louder. The first question is, will the past and current ACC members cooperate, or delay until the final judgement? The second is, how many will go from sitting commissioners directly to jail?

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