Rolling Back Electric Vehicle Subsidies And Reducing TEP’s Rate Hike Are Big Wins For The People Of Tucson

Rolling Back Electric Vehicle Subsidies And Reducing TEP’s Rate Hike Are Big Wins For The People Of Tucson

By the Arizona Free Enterprise Club |

For years, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has been the stomping ground for the left to push its Green New Deal Agenda. In fact, it was just over two years ago when the commission quietly released its plan to impose California-style energy mandates in our state. Their goal was to ban fossil fuels and require most electricity companies to provide “clean” energy by 2050. Thankfully, the commission voted down these energy mandates in January 2022. But that hasn’t stopped the left from trying to find other ways to exploit the ACC.

One of their latest efforts has centered on Tucson, and as part of its Green New Deal agenda, Tucson Electric Power (TEP) asked the ACC for rate hikes to subsidize electric vehicles. But TEP didn’t get everything it wanted…


Arizona Corporation Commission Reaches Multi-State Settlement With Robinhood

Arizona Corporation Commission Reaches Multi-State Settlement With Robinhood

By Daniel Stefanski |

On Tuesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) announced that it “joined a multi-state settlement with Robinhood Financial LLC, which will pay up to $10.2 million in penalties for operational failures that harmed main street investors.”

According to the ACC, “the investigation was sparked by Robinhood platform outages in March 2020, a time when hundreds of thousands of investors were relying on the Robinhood app to make trades. In addition, prior to March 2021, there were deficiencies at Robinhood in its review and approval process for options and margin accounts, weaknesses in the firm’s monitoring and reporting tools, and insufficient customer service and escalation protocols that in some cases left Robinhood users unable to process trades even as the value of certain stocks was dropping.”

The investigation was led by “state securities regulators in Alabama, Colorado, California, Delaware, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Texas coordinated through the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) regarding Robinhood’s operational failures with respect to the retail market.”

NASAA President Andrew Hartnett issued the following statement in conjunction with the announcement: “Today’s multistate agreement represents states at their best – working together for the benefit of Main Street investors. Robinhood repeatedly failed to serve its clients, but this settlement makes clear that Robinhood must take its customer care obligations seriously and correct these deficiencies.”

ACC Chairman Jim O’Connor also added, “This agreement is part of an ongoing effort by state securities regulators to protect investors and to make sure they are treated fairly by their financial services companies.”

The ACC’s news release made clear that “the Commission found no evidence of willful or fraudulent conduct by Robinhood, and that Robinhood fully cooperated with the investigation.” Also, “Robinhood neither admitted nor denied the findings as set out in the states’ orders.”

One of the findings of fact in the order before the ACC was that “Robinhood acquired approximately 89,136 new Arizona customers from October 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, for a total customer count of approximately 290,356 as of March 31, 2020. From October 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, Robinhood approved approximately 13,713 Arizona customers for option trading and approximately 1,934 Arizona customers for margin trading.”

The ACC’s release highlighted these violations as included in the order:

  • Negligent dissemination of inaccurate information to customers, including regarding margin and risk associated with multi-leg option spreads.
  • Failure to have a reasonably designed customer identification program.
  • Failure to supervise technology critical to providing customers with core broker-dealer services.
  • Failure to have a reasonably designed system for dealing with customer inquiries.
  • Failure to exercise due diligence before approving certain option accounts.
  • Failure to report all customer complaints to FINRA and state securities regulators, as may be required.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Hobbs Plans To Meet With Utility Companies To Address Heatwave

Hobbs Plans To Meet With Utility Companies To Address Heatwave

By Daniel Stefanski |

Arizona’s Democrat Governor is moving ahead with her plans to talk to the state’s utility companies to address the heatwave. This week, Governor Katie Hobbs announced that she had “scheduled a roundtable meeting with utility company leadership for August 18.”

Hobbs plans to use the event to “highlight her administration’s efforts to protect Arizonans during the historic heat wave and discuss actions utilities can take to address future challenges.”

In a statement, Hobbs said, “Extreme heat can be devastating when not properly addressed. That’s why I’m taking action to provide relief through additional resources and collaborating with utilities, local organizations, cities, and county officials. Together, we will keep Arizonans safe through this historic heat wave and ensure our state is prepared for future emergencies.”The governor also revealed that her Office would “provide $50,000 to Valley Interfaith Network for staffing, water, and expanded cooling center service throughout Arizona.”

Hobbs’ announcement followed a controversial letter sent to Arizona utility companies at the end of last month, in which she asked for “written plans outlining how they will protect Arizonans during this devastating heat wave.”

The governor directed the utility companies to focus their plans on the areas of Disconnects, Grid Security, Emergency Response, Customers in Arrears, and Community Service.

Republicans and Democrats largely broke to partisan corners with their responses to the governor’s efforts on this front. Phoenix Councilwoman Laura Pastor tweeted, “Phoenix has been experiencing a historically hot summer – if a statewide or even citywide power outage were to happen, lives would be lost. We need to know what to do during that situation and how we can help our residents. Governor Hobbs is asking the right questions.”

The Arizona Democratic Party also weighed in, posting, “As Arizona faces a historically hot summer, Democrats are delivering real relief! Thank you Governor Hobbs.”

Republican Representative Matthew Gress took an opposing view to the governor’s announcement, writing, “Governor, you *do* know the utilities already submitted those plans and briefed the Commission…back in April…right? And you do realize the excessive heat warning has been in effect for nearly a month? We’ve hit new records for several weeks now? Every time, our utilities performed flawlessly. But really glad you weighed in weeks after the heat wave started! You’re really on top of things.”

Representative Joseph Chaplik added, “Another example of an unqualified Hobbs Governor/CEO of AZ. As Gov, you should have already known all this from communicating with APS and SRP over the last 9 months with preparation for the summer. We all know we get hot in the desert during July. No need to publicize your late demands. You should be thanking them for being prepared.”

Long-time Arizona journalist Howie Fischer pointed out that the governor’s request to state utility companies was “not within her constitutional duties (but was) the role of the Arizona Corporation Commission.”

Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope agreed with Fischer, tweeting, “Correct, it’s not within Governor Hobbs constitutional duties. Perhaps her interns oughta watch one of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee hearings that Senator Sine Kerr chairs so she can learn about energy plans and how the utilities plan for summer.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Thompson Scores Pay Raises, Increased Staffing For Corporation Commission

Thompson Scores Pay Raises, Increased Staffing For Corporation Commission

By Daniel Stefanksi |

Arizona Corporation Commissioner Kevin Thompson announced the successful inclusion of top-line priorities in the recently signed budget for the state – negotiated between Republican legislators and Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs. While Hobbs apparently failed to incorporate some main requests for same-party officials in the Attorney General’s and Secretary of State’s offices, many Republicans around the state, including Thompson, were more than pleased with their budget advances.

In an Instagram post, Thompson revealed the following budget gains for the Corporation Commission:

  • “$6M in new dedicated funds to increase staffing levels and increase employee salaries by 10%.
  • Another $7M in one-time funding to replace the Commission’s outdated business filing computer system, which will help improve the overall customer experience for Arizona’s 1.3M active LLC’s and another 578,000 active corporations registered in our state.”

Thompson also ensured that these wins were fiscally responsible, adding that the funding was secured “using existing Commission funding streams, incurring no additional expense for the taxpayer.”

The freshman commissioner noted the difficulty of this accomplishment, sharing that “many scoffed at the idea of our ambitious supplemental budget request” due to the fact that “the Commission hadn’t received new dollars from the legislature in years.”

This action was a priority of Thompson’s – and his fellow freshman Commissioner, Nick Myers – since they were sworn into office in January. In his inauguration speech, Thompson promised to pursue increased funding for Corporation Commission staff, saying, “With that, I want to immediately work to bring our staffing levels back to where they should be, and secure the livable wages our hardworking public servants deserve. We can’t continue to do more to service the public with less and expect our employees to have quality of life in this economy. I will work with our Executive Director and legislature to seek an increase in our annual budget and improve salaries for our employees. We have to keep pace with other state agency employee pay.”

Not only did this funding not add any more dollars to the state’s general fund, it will certainly help Arizona ratepayers and those who interact with the Corporation Commission – as Thompson highlighted in his recent social media post: “One of the significant consequence of being understaffed and under-resourced is that Arizona has consistently ranked in the bottom tier nationally in processing utility rate cases—it takes fifty percent longer to process a rate case in Arizona – resulting in delays to build new generation and replace critical infrastructure, driving up ratepayer costs and further destabilizing our regulatory and investment climate.”

Thompson also praised Myers, who ran as a team with him in 2022, for his co-labors in securing new funding for the Commission. Thompson’s and Myers’ November victories kept Sandra Kennedy and Lauren Kuby from those seats, which would have given the Democrats control of the Commission. According to an official Corporation Commission release, House and Senate Appropriations Chairs David Livingston and John Kavanagh were applauded for their leadership roles in making the funding a reality during the legislative process.

Commissioner Thompson has quickly made himself into a reliable conservative voice and figure for Arizona Republicans, which hasn’t been too hard due to the scarcity of statewide Republican officials. Still, Thompson’s record at the Mesa City Council and (now) at the Arizona Corporation Commission could lead to a significant promotion in the 2026 state contests – especially as he works with his Republican colleagues to stop Democrats from transforming Arizona’s energy policies.

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

SunZia Transmission Project Receives Major Approvals In 2 States

SunZia Transmission Project Receives Major Approvals In 2 States

By Terri Jo Neff |

The largest wind energy project in the Western Hemisphere is one step closer to generating electricity for 3 million Americans after Pattern Energy received the final approval it needs from Arizona officials for a transmission line that will carry electricity from the New Mexico wind project to Arizona.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) recently gave its unanimous approval to the Certificate of Environmental Compatibility application for Pattern Energy’s 550-mile SunZia Transmission project. The transmission line will be the conduit for Pattern Energy’s own 3,500MW SunZia Wind facility being constructed across three central New Mexico counties.

The ACC certificate represents the completion of the Arizona permitting process for the ±525 kV high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will enter Arizona from the east, running along the southern end of Graham and Greenlee counties before veering southwest through northern Cochise County.

The line will then head northwest through the far northeast corner of Pima County before heading on to Pinal County where the project ends. There are plans for a third party transmission line to then carry the electricity to the Palo Verde Hub.

Pattern Energy continues to work with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as well as local jurisdictions and stakeholders to finalize the remaining approvals needed to allow construction on the projects to begin on schedule in mid-2023. A Record of Decision from BLM is anticipated in April 2023, the key approval required prior to construction.

Those approvals will bring badly needed temporary and permanent jobs to Arizona, particularly in Cochise County and Pinal County. There will also be associated revenues such as for materials, equipment, fuel, and temporary housing.

“This project is of great economic benefit with more than 2,000 construction jobs and up to 150 permanent jobs, which for our rural communities is a lifeline,” said Mignonne Hollis, Executive Director of the Cochise County-based Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation. “It’s vital for our county, which continues to see a decline in population, to have stable jobs come into our region.”

The SunZia wind and transmission project was first proposed in 2006 and received its first granted accepted rating from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council in 2011. Its first of many federal approvals came in 2015.

Since then, dozens of environmental and sustainability reviews have been conducted for the joint project, which will have a footprint in 13 counties between the two states.

Company officials say the combined SunZia Wind project and Transmission project comprise the largest renewable energy infrastructure project in U.S. history with a total privately-funded investment of more than $8 billion.

“The unanimous decision by the ACC to grant a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility for the SunZia Transmission line represents a major milestone towards the completion of this project,” said Mike Garland, CEO of Pattern Energy which owns the SunZia project. “Once complete these projects will combine to increase the reliability of the western grid, create good jobs, and bring millions of dollars in economic benefits to Arizona and New Mexico.”

The operational portfolio of California-based Pattern Energy includes 35 renewable energy facilities that use proven, best-in-class technology with an operating capacity of nearly 6,000 MW in the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.