Arizona Public Service, the largest utility in Arizona, is a regulated monopoly with 1.2 million customers. By state law, the energy giant is shielded from competition and guaranteed a profit. In return, government regulators — in theory — protect consumers and our state from price gouging, environmental devastation, and other misbehavior. Sadly for all of us, last week offered another reminder that even its sweetheart deal with the state is not good enough for APS’s executives. Instead APS has decided that its pathway to maximum profits requires polluting our politics and governance as much as it requires polluting our air.
Late last week, the Corporation Commission forced its executive director to resign after revealing that his spouse works for the lobbying and PR firm that runs APS’s political campaigns. Imagine that! The person running the state agency charged with regulating a monopoly is married to a person working for the monopoly. How long did this conflict of interest exist? We don’t know. And we cannot expect APS or its top political operative Matt Benson to tell us the truth about their latest conflict of interest.
This would all be shocking if it wasn’t what we have come to expect from APS with their recent behavior across the board. Just look at the secretive, defiant, and evasive tactics we have seen from this greedy corporate monopoly, which made $488 million in profits last year alone.
APS wrote a bill in the Legislature designed to shield it from punis hment in cases where it broke the law.
APS refuses to answer questions as to whether it spent millions of dollars in the 2014 election for the Corporation Commission members whose job it is to regulate APS. It is as if the New England Patriots got to choose the referees for the Super Bowl.
APS’s campaign agents have offered bribes to paid petition circulators in the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative, which APS’s spokesman described as “totally normal.”
Under current circumstances, where a mega-profitable corporate monopoly openly bribes people as part of a multi-million dollar campaign to deny the people of Arizona a choice over energy policy, we cannot trust anything said by APS or its surrogates. Nor can we trust our elected representatives to choose Arizona families over APS as long as it’s a major source of campaign cash and cushy consulting gigs.
Ultimately, the solution here is simple — APS is a regulated monopoly and should not spend any ratepayer money to elect politicians who are responsible for regulating its business — including setting customer rates.
— Alejandra Gomez is co-executive director, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA)
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.