If you’re not sure what the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is or does, don’t feel bad; you’re in good company. I’ve traveled all across this state as a former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and as the director of the departments of Weights and Measures, Insurance, and Financial Institutions.
I’m often asked, “What exactly does the Corporation Commission do?” That sends me a message: Maybe we need to reach out more. To me the question became how and where do we start that introduction, and whom do we engage? As the newest commissioner, I want to involve all Arizonans and bring the ACC directly to the people, especially those who live in rural Arizona.
When I was appointed by Governor Doug Ducey, I immediately saw a clear need and wonderful opportunity to take the ACC on the road to meet and hear the people who live outside Maricopa County. That’s why I’m taking the Corporation Commission “On the Road.” Our Open Meetings include topics that impact many crucial aspects of Arizona’s economy. Starting with the March Open Meeting, I’ll be teleconferencing with the other four commissioners in Phoenix from different parts of the state in an eight-month Rural Arizona Corporation Commission Tour. For the Open Meeting in March, I will be in Yuma County, in April Mohave County, and in May Navaho and Apache counties. Prior to each open meeting, I will have a town hall that will provide more information about the ACC and an opportunity to ask me questions or seek help with any ACC problems you may have.
Just how much power does the ACC wield over our lives? The ACC regulates electricity, natural gas, water and sewer, corporate filings, securities, pipelines, railroads, and much more. The five commissioners meet monthly to make decisions about these industries. The meetings are held in Phoenix and are attended mainly by those who live there or whose companies are based in Phoenix. Most of ACC’s employees live in Maricopa County.
The most prominent ACC activity is setting utility rates. The commissioners regularly vote on how much you pay every time you flip on a light, run your heater on those cool desert nights, or take refuge from the hot summer days in an air-conditioned house. In fact, the ACC may also affect how much you pay for that light bulb, heater, or air conditioner through appliance rebates ordered by the ACC and issued by the electric company.
Other Open Meeting items address water or wastewater services provided by private companies. The ACC sets those rates, too. A perennial challenge the ACC has grappled with is the numerous small water companies that have struggled for years to keep the water flowing and safe to drink. For those of you who are served by these companies, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In some really dire cases, the ACC has already stepped in and installed interim water company operators.
But that isn’t a long-term solution. These fledgling companies need additional assistance to repair critical infrastructure needs that would allow them to return to compliance with environmental and other regulatory standards for safe drinking water, or to become a more sound investment for larger and more stable water companies or municipalities to purchase. That’s why I am an ardent supporter of HB2331, which would provide the ACC with $500,000 for grants to small water companies, most of which are in rural Arizona. Even though the money is a fraction of what these companies need to get back on the right track, it is a crucial first step in a larger Arizona water strategy.
My top priority at the ACC is to ensure that every Arizonan, especially those who live in the far reaches of our state, have access to a reliable electrical grid, safe drinking water, and adequate sewage and wastewater facilities. These are resources not only necessary for comfortable living, but also essential to survival in the Desert Southwest. The stakes are high; the consequences of ACC action (or inaction) are real. We need you, the people, to weigh in and let your voice be heard at YOUR commission. I sincerely hope you can make it out. I’d love to meet you.
If you have any questions about next week, please give me a call or send me an email. My office number is (602) 542-3625 and my email address is Tobinfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Tobin is a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission.