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PHOENIX (AP) — State regulators cleared the way this month for Arizona Public Service Co. to compete with private companies in rooftop solar installation.
PHOENIX – The Arizona Corporation Commission has unanimously approved an agreement that includes – at least for the next year – a modest hike in monthly wastewater bills for EPCOR Water Arizona, Inc.’s Sun City customers while slightly hiking monthly bills for Sun City West users.
In the commentary by Barry Goldwater Jr., “Yet another ‘dark money’ group attacks Arizona solar,” printed in the Dec. 7 East Valley Tribune, he makes a false claim that “rooftop solar represents the only real competition utilities have ever faced.”
There is no shortage of “dark money” groups willing to do the bidding of utility monopolies such as Arizona Public Service (APS). The 60 Plus Association, The Free Enterprise Club, and Arizonans for Jobs hide behind conservative-sounding names while arguing against energy choice and energy independence. Add one more group willing to do the bidding of utility monopolies. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance, based in Virginia, seemed compelled to write a guest editorial published Nov. 30 in the East Valley Tribune, which slams solar power.
I recently attended a solar energy roundtable event at Arizona State University. As someone with interest in the technical possibilities of solar, I appreciated that much of the discussion focused on the solar potential in Arizona. A few days later, Environment Arizona released a report, “Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in Arizona,” which explains that solar power is actually growing fast enough here in the state to make the goal of 25 percent solar by 2025 readily achievable.
Arizona Corporation Commission has initiated a process to eliminate utility energy-efficiency programs that are projected to save businesses and homeowners $9 billion in electricity costs through 2020. Such a move will increase energy costs for customers because saving energy through energy-efficient means is less than half the cost of building new power plants.
Tom Horne will pay $10,000 out of his own pocket to end an investigation into whether he illegally used staffers at the Attorney General's Office in his unsuccessful reelection campaign.
PHOENIX (AP) — A Chandler man has been ordered to pay nearly $2.2 million in restitution for defrauding investors in business ventures.
The Arizona Corporation Commission on Wednesday ordered William N. Nordstrom to pay $2.1 million in restitution and a $100,000 penalty for securities fraud.
They say Nordstrom wasn't registered to offer or sell securities in Arizona and he fraudulently offered and sold investments in three different companies.
In a separate case, the commission sanctioned Randall Duane Simonson of Scottsdale and Karl Henry Rehberg of Florida for selling an investment in a Mesa storage facility that cost investors more than $1.6 million.
The two men were found liable for securities fraud in the sale of stock and a promissory note.
Simonson has been ordered to pay $1.4 million restitution and Rehberg $1.2 million.
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona voters have given Republicans another four years to lead the state, rejecting Democratic efforts to win statewide offices for the first time this decade.
Republican state treasurer Doug Ducey won the governor's office by a wide margin, beating Fred DuVal after a campaign that saw the Democrat fail to gain traction as he was hammered by nearly $8 million in negative ads paid for by outside groups.
Ducey takes over from retiring Republican Gov. Jan Brewer in January, but he will be faced with an immediate budget crisis as the state expects a budget deficit exceeding $1 billion.
Republican state Sen. Michele Reagan was elected secretary of state, making her the state's top elections official and the first in line to become governor if Ducey is unable to continue in the job. Mark Brnovich won the attorney general's race, Republican Jeff DeWit becomes the new state treasurer after an uncontested race, and two Republicans beat their Democratic opponents for the regulatory body known as the Corporation Commission to the secure the near GOP sweep of top statewide offices.
The lone statewide office that remained too close to call Wednesday — superintendent of public instruction — was being led by Republican Diane Douglas over Democrat David Garcia.
That left Democrats who had looked at the midterm elections as a way to grab a statewide constitutional office considering how they came up short.
Democratic Party spokesman Frank Camacho said the party's grassroots organizing efforts mainly fell short and its candidates lacked the fire to inspire young people. The exceptions were Ruben Gallego, who won the 7th Congressional District seat of retiring Rep. Ed Pastor, and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema's win in the 9th District.
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick won her sprawling rural 1st District as well. Democratic Rep. Ron Barber was locked in a tight race with retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally in southern Arizona's 2nd District.
But statewide elected offices were nearly out of reach for Democrats, who last held one before the 2010 general election.
"You see how they can inspire young folks," Camacho said. "We just have to go out there, identify them and get them ready for state, local or national office. We have to give voters a reason to vote for Democrats."
Ducey's easy win came as Republicans gained across the nation, taking control of the U.S. Senate and solidifying their control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Ducey, the 50-year-old former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, portrayed himself as the inevitable winner in the final weeks of the campaign, buoyed by heavy spending on his behalf by outside groups and strong Republican turnout in early voting. He emerged from a bruising six-way primary in August in the race to replace Gov. Jan Brewer and went on to outspend DuVal in the general election by a hefty margin.
He'll take office in January and face a fiscal crisis caused by lower-than-expected tax revenue and a court order that could put Arizona on the hook for up to $2.5 billion in new education spending. The state faces a projected deficit of $1.5 billion in the current and next budget years amid promises from both candidates to cut taxes.
"I'm grateful for the privilege you have given me, for the trust you have placed in me, and I pledge my best efforts as the governor of this great state," Ducey said in a victory speech. "Whether you voted for me or you voted for someone else, I intend to be governor for all and work to create opportunities for every single Arizonan."
Ducey thanked his campaign staff, his wife, Angela, his three sons, and his opponent, Fred DuVal, calling him "a good man."
DuVal, in a concession speech at the Democrats' election-night headquarters in Phoenix, also thanked his supporters, and he said he had called Ducey to offer his congratulations.
"A registration disadvantage and clearly a bad national environment were hard enough to overcome. But we were also reminded that unlimited money is a powerful thing in politics — and is not a healthy thing," DuVal said.
He took a swipe at the massive amounts of outside spending used to attack him in the race from outside groups. Ducey and Duval each spent about $2.2 million in their general election campaigns, but Ducey has benefited from $7.9 million in outside spending compared with about $1 million for DuVal.
"I would like to call and congratulate the other big winners tonight, but frankly the other big winners are undisclosed, unknown and out of state," DuVal said.
PHOENIX (AP) — Republican candidates Tom Forese and Doug Little have won the two spots on the powerful Arizona Corporation Commission.
Arizona is deciding a full slate of statewide, congressional and local races, many of which were highly competitive heading in to the final hours of the campaign. The closeness of the contests has been reflected in the bombardment of attack ads over the final weeks as Democratic, Republican and special interest groups have spent large amounts of money in Arizona. Here is a look at the ticket, and what's at stake:
Outside groups that want Doug Ducey as Arizona's next governor have spent enough to give every man, woman and child in the state a dollar — and still have $1 million left over. That doesn't count the $2.2 million that Ducey himself has spent in the general election, on top of the $5 million he expended just getting to be the Republican nominee in the first place.
PHOENIX -- Outside groups that want Doug Ducey as Arizona's next governor have spent enough to give every man, woman and child in the state a dollar -- and still have $1 million left over.
From left, facing camera, Arizona Corporation Commission candidates Jim Holway, Doug Little, Sandra Kennedy and Tom Forese face off in a televised debate last month with host Ted Simons (back to camera).
Two Republicans and a pair of Democrats are seeking seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission in Tuesday’s election.
The Daily News-Sun asked them to comment on the top issues facing the ACC.
Name: Sandra Kennedy
• There is no longer a consumer advocate on the commission.
• I want to restore an emphasis on creating solar energy jobs.
Name: Doug Little
Occupation: Former computer software industry expert
• The aging water infrastructure in many communities.
• The negative impact on the economy associated with potentially significant increases in the cost of energy associated with the implementation of proposed EPA mandates.
I am committed to be the champion of the ratepayer and work to ensure that all Arizonans have access to clean reliable energy and water at the lowest possible price. We will achieve this with a balanced energy portfolio that leverages all of the different types of energy generation in the most cost-effective fashion.
Name: Jim Holway
Occupation: Land use and water resources planner
• We must ensure Arizona will have reliable and affordable water and power in an era of increasing costs, ongoing droughts and greater reliance on intermittent renewable supplies, changing technology and more stringent environmental controls.
Specific actions include: utility resource plans that address Arizona’s future uncertainty and changing needs; support for solar energy innovation, production and jobs in Arizona while also utilizing our coal, nuclear and natural gas resources; and assisting investments in conservation and efficiency.
• The current debate about solar energy in general and the new solar (net metering) tax on residential customers in particular. The ACC should commission an objective, long-term and comprehensive economic study looking at the costs and benefits of not only solar and other renewable supplies, but for other energy supplies as well.
Name: Tom Forese
Occupation: Current state legislator, owner of the Hive.
• We have nine different departments setting the price for utilities and we need to have balance to keep rates low as possible.
• I’m looking to keep things safe and fair but keep costs as minimal as possible. I have a voting record against unneccesary regulations and tax increases. My commitment is to find the balance. My background is technology and I think we’ll see amazing things for solar. We don’t want to harm the solar industry or the businesses. There’s balance in both areas.
A complaint by an employee of sexual and racial harassment preceded by one day the Oct. 17 decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire the head of state agency that oversees virtually all state workers.
PHOENIX -- A complaint by an employee claiming sexual and racial harassment preceded by one day the Oct. 17 decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire the head of state agency that oversees virtually all state workers.
Documents obtained by Capitol Media Services show the Governor's Office was given copies of a filing by the worker with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Oct. 16. The worker, whose identity was not disclosed, said in her filing with the EEOC that Brian McNeil, director of the state Department of Administration, made comments to her last year with "sexual connotations.''
"He also mentioned that although I was an 'attractive women' and a good speaker, he wanted more from my job performance,'' the complaint states. The woman also said that McNeil repeatedly referred to her as being in a "protected class,'' that others would not criticize her work performance "based on racial issues,'' and she needed to "woman up.''
While the EEOC filing was in February, gubernatorial spokesman Andrew Wilder said his boss did not become aware of the issue until Oct. 16. It was that day the woman gave a copy of the filing to Kathy Peckardt, a deputy chief of staff to Brewer, with a sticky note to Peckardt saying "this is what was turned into the federal EEOC office, and the investigator interviewed me on 2/14/14.''
But what may have precipitated the woman to take that action is her allegation that problems with McNeil continued right through the day she informed the Governor's Office.
The woman furnished Peckardt with a statement saying she had met that day with McNeil, saying there were "some positives mentioned about growth opportunities.'' But she said there were other comments.
For example, she said McNeil mentioned the possibility of working with the Government Transformation Office, saying she could bring good qualities to the group. "But I had an upside because I am a member of the protected class, and others might be afraid to say things to me that might make me mad.''
She also reported that McNeil asked her age "because one of his buddies was impressed with me at a work function but only wanted to date someone that had to be 40 years old.''
McNeil was fired the following day.
In a prepared statement, McNeil said he has never discriminated against anyone based on race or gender and believes he was treated unfairly.
"I believe had this matter been researched and investigated fairly, properly and objectively, it would have already been found to be something other than what is characterized,'' he said.
McNeil also said he was never given the specifics of the accusation, interviewed about it or provided an opportunity to review and respond before being told to resign or be fired.
"I (saw) the media received the documents in surprisingly quick fashion, but I had no chance to review them although I am the one accused,'' he said.
The story does not end with McNeil's firing.
On Tuesday, the woman told Peckardt in a memo that she received five phone calls from McNeil earlier that day in less than three hours on her personal cell phone, with him leaving a voice message on one and a text message with another.
"Because this was after his termination, it left me feeling very uneasy and a bit concerned,'' the woman wrote. "I decided to not stay at my home on this particular night due to the uneasiness.''
"I wish things would have gone better,'' McNeil says in an audio of the voice message obtained by Capitol Media Services. "I wish I would have been more sensitive, you know, about how I was coming across early on,'' the message continues. And he said the meeting Oct. 16 -- the one that apparently precipitated the woman giving all the information to the state -- "was intended to try to help promote, you know, better, clear dialog between you and I about professional matters.''
For the moment, McNeil remains on the state payroll.
Scott Smith, the governor's chief of staff, agreed to a request by McNeil, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, that he be placed on paid military leave through Nov. 7. And he is being allowed to use annual leave from Nov. 10 through Dec. 19.
McNeil was executive director of the Arizona Corporation Commission from 1999 to 2009. That year, he joined the Brewer administration as a deputy chief of staff. He left to become a lobbyist but was rehired by the governor two years ago to head the Department of Administration. That agency has purview over human resources and personnel issues as well as everything from state buildings to fleet management.
PHOENIX -- The parent company of the state's largest electric utility is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through a third party to ensure that Republican Mark Brnovich becomes the next state attorney general.
Records obtained by Capitol Media Services show that Pinnacle West Capital Corp. has given $425,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association. That amounts to more than one dollar of every six of the $2.5 million RAGA has amassed so far in Arizona for attack ads on Democrat Felecia Rotellini.
Pinnacle West spokesman Alan Bunnell refused to explain why the corporation is spending that kind of money on the race for who becomes the state's top law enforcement official.
Instead, he said that Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Service "support causes of either party that are pro-business.'' And Bunnell said the company acts to ensure there is "safe, reliable and affordable energy.''
But it also comes as APS and other utilities are fighting the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for what they see as unnecessary and onerous pollution regulations for coal-fired power plants that will require larger reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from Arizona facilities than other states. And Brnovich has said that, if elected, he will join with other states "in challenging the legality of these federal regulations if they are not promptly withdrawn or significantly revised to reflect the concerns of stakeholders.''
Brnovich is not about to reject or disavow the spending by the utility on his behalf.
Spokesman Matthew Benson said the Republican has built "a strong coalition of support'' and that "he's happy to have everyone on board.''
Benson sidestepped a question of whether Brnovich thinks it is appropriate to have a regulated utility try to influence who is elected the next chief law enforcement officer of the state.
"You'd have to ask Pinnacle West about the donation decisions they have,'' he said. But Benson, in language echoing what came from Bunnell, said it's likely the company sees it as in its interest.
"If Pinnacle West has chosen to weigh in on his behalf in this race, it may be because the utility views him as the more credible candidate when it comes to pushing back against the Obama administration and fighting overregulation that threatens Arizona's ability to produce the clean, cost-effective energy Arizona families and businesses need,'' Benson said.
But Rotellini said neither the explanation from Bunnell nor Benson makes sense.
She pointed out she actually had gone on record in August as opposing the new EPA rules, even testifying before a legislative committee, before Brnovich sent his own letter threatening to sue the federal agency. Rotellini said she has no answers about why APS and its parent have opted to back her foe. But that did not stop her from blasting the company for its decision.
"It's beyond disconcerting to see a regulated corporation, the state's largest utility, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to a dark money group to fund attack ads full of lies,'' she charged.
Strictly speaking, though, RAGA is not a "dark money'' group. Unlike others involved in trying to influence this year's election, it does provide a list of donors.
But it's not that simple. RAGA does take cash from other groups that do not make such disclosures.
That includes the American Future Fund which gave it $650,000 earlier this year, meaning that the ultimate source of much of RAGA's funding remains secret.
Other reports, however, show that American Future Foundation, in turn, received much of its funding, at least in the 2012 election cycle, from Center to Protect Patient Rights, a group founded by Sean Noble which has now morphed into American Encore. And Noble, who works for Brnovich, has previously been a consultant for APS.
Benson did not dispute whether Rotellini was first in blasting the EPA. But he said the timing apparently is irrelevant to APS.
"The question is which of these two candidates has credibility that they will actually fight back against the Obama administration,'' he said. "Talk is cheap.''
While the large contribution to help Brnovich could be found, albeit not from disclosure required by Arizona law, this may not be the first foray by APS into electing candidates it believes will be better for its business interests.
During the Republican primary, Vernon Parker and Lucy Mason charged that APS was behind the hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into commercials against them by Save Our Future Now. The same organization, which refuses to disclose its donors, also spent more than $425,000 on behalf of favored candidates Doug Little and Tom Forese who have advanced to the primary.
And Save Our Future Now already has reported spending $1.3 million in commercials attacking Democrat Sandra Kennedy.
Bunnell on Tuesday again refused to confirm or deny the involvement of either APS or its parent in the Corporation Commission race. Instead, he repeated his statement about the interest in supporting candidates that the company believes will support its energy policies.