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Arizona Corporation Commission Election Results Show Republicans Keeping Control

By Steve Goldstein, Katie Campbell
Published: Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 1:35pm
Updated: Thursday, November 5, 2020 - 2:07pm
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STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Democratic candidates for three seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission didn't hold onto their early leads for long. As of [Nov. 5], Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar is the only Democrat who will make the cut. Republicans Lea Márquez Peterson, who was appointed to the Commission last year, and Jim O'Connor are likely to claim the other two seats. That means Republicans will maintain the majority, and that could have impacts beyond the usual regulatory business. And KJZZ's Katie Campbell is here to explain. Katie, good morning.

KATIE CAMPBELL: It is morning.

GOLDSTEIN: As you've pointed out, a time or two, the Commission is the home of some pretty wonky business. But how could this election affect broader outcomes?

CAMPBELL: Well, quite simply, it could affect recent changes made to the state's renewable energy standards. I spoke to Commissioner Márquez Peterson [Nov. 4] when it became fairly clear she'd keep her seat.

LEA MÁRQUEZ PETERSON: Energy rules are really determining Arizona's energy future. And we will have our discussions, our debates, our votes during this year. And then the next Commission will go through the formal process and make the final determination, so modifications could be made.

CAMPBELL: And, you know, she pointed out this is just one tiny sliver of the business at the Commission. As we know, there is no shortage of controversy when it comes to people's bills and when, you know, their bottom lines are on the line. And the Commissioner was pretty upfront about the impact the majority party will ultimately have.

MÁRQUEZ PETERSON: We've got not only energy rules, but [an] APS pending rate case — TEP. You know, we see 70 to 80 rate cases a year, but those are the two that certainly get so much media attention and customer interaction. And I certainly think that will be impacted based on whether we're a Republican or a Democrat majority.

GOLDSTEIN: And Katie, most Arizonans probably lucky enough to avoid having business before the corporation Commission. But observers, Commission regulars — what do they think of the results they're seeing so far?

CAMPBELL: I don't think anyone's terribly surprised by these results. I talked to Court Rich from Rose Law Group on Election Night, and I caught up again with him this morning when things, you know, looked a bit different. He represents solar advocates among a lot of other interests at the Commission, and basically he told me, you know, at the end of the day, no big deal, it's going to be business as usual down there based on the results right now. As for the renewable energy standards, he pointed out that the big vote, that 100% clean energy requirement by 2050, that was a 3-2 decision, and that's the one that could be jeopardized if Lea Márquez Peterson and Jim O'Connor win. But other aspects of the rules were approved 4-1.

RICH COURT: So there's a lot of details. There's everything in these rules from energy efficiency to batteries in homes, to sort of details about how the utilities procure electricity in the future. The big ticket item was that clean energy requirement. And I do think it'll be interesting to see how that ends up playing out with the new Commission.

CAMPBELL: We'll just have to wait and see how much more progressive our energy policy really gets next year.

GOLDSTEIN: Just more wonky business for you to follow. KJZZ's Katie Campbell, thanks so much.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

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