Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Of Course Not: Amid Accusations Of Bias, Will Bob Stump Recuse Himself From APS Net Metering Decisions?

The headline is a slightly reworded version of the title of the news piece at kjzz.org.

You remember: Stump is the AZ Corporation Commissioner who authored numerous text messages to Arizona Public Service (APS) lobbyists, dark money guys, and even two candidates for the Commission (who got campaign contributions suspected to originate at APS). The messages were deleted from Stump's phone (of course), and the phone was destroyed (of course). But it was later determined that the phone in question did not exist and other phones had been in Stump's possession. And when it came to a critical vote on whether to hear a special plea by APS to raise rates on solar users, Stump and those two other commissioners ... did what? ... voted to consider APS's request.

Now that the furor in the media has subsided, Stump has come out swinging.

One of Arizona’s top regulators will not recuse himself from voting on how the state’s largest utility charges customers with rooftop solar.

Last month, solar company SunRun requested Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump be removed from rate making decisions involving Arizona Public Service and solar net metering because of alleged bias against the solar industry.

But in a strongly worded response filed on Monday, Stump made it clear he would not back down. In fact, the commissioner seemed to revel in rebuffing what he considered a politically motivated attack that "verges on parody." SunRun’s motion had cited social media posts, a letter and even a short story written by Stump in which a character makes anti-solar statements and calls net-metering a "subsidy."

According to the complaint, such statements showed Stump could not be objective in his quasi-judicial role as a commissioner. All of this was shot down by Stump who said "I was not — and am not — biased against any party or any position taken herein." He continued that his statements about net metering are part of a larger debate and do not directly reflect APS’ position, nor should Facebook posts or satirical writing be framed as official positions.

Neither should dozens of text messages, I guess.

Will Stump do the right thing? Of. Course. Not.

Recently, APS said it may withdraw its bid to raise rates on rooftop solar this year, but requested the commission hold a hearing on how net metering shifts cost onto its other customers.

On Monday, the commission staff recommended all those issues be addressed during a full rate case next year.

Will the commission follow the recommendations? I anticipate another candidate for "Of Course Not."

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