Bob Stump, a former utility regulator with the Arizona Corporation Commission until 2017, is now formally working for the companies he used to regulate. Stump announced this week the formation of a new trade association, with himself as executive director, which will represent the interests of Arizona’s utilities before his former colleagues at the ACC.

The new group, dubbed the “Arizona Energy Policy Group” will intervene in selected utility rate cases and other policy proceedings, and submit editorials to local and national media, in an effort to educate the public about the lifeblood of Arizona’s economy: the provision of safe, affordable and reliable energy. ” Stump said in a statement announcing the group on Monday.

On the same day, Stump filed to intervene on behalf of the new group in monopoly utility Arizona Public Service’s request to recover nearly $370 million from its customers for investments into its Four Corners coal-burning power plant – along with a return for its shareholders.

Stump was a lightning rod for controversy during his time as a regulator from 2010 to 2018. For much of 2015 and 2016, he was embroiled in a legal showdown with a watchdog group, the Checks and Balances Project, that made public records requests of text messages between Stump and APS, and between Stump and the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC), one of two dark money groups that spent millions in the 2014 ACC election to defeat pro-solar candidates. It’s been widely assumed that APS was the source of that funding, though the utility has never confirmed or denied its involvement. Stump deleted the text messages and destroyed the phone containing them.

Stump’s Post-ACC work has been in support of utilities on rooftop solar policy

After leaving the ACC in 2017, Stump started an entity called the “Truth in Power Project,” a “non-profit energy-sector watchdog … holding players in the energy arena accountable,” according to the project’s Twitter profile. Stump was listed on the page as an editor. The project’s website is defunct now, and the Twitter account has been inactive since September, but its content was highly critical of rooftop solar companies, echoing the talking points of APS and other utilities.

Stump flew to Florida to testify in front of a legislative committee on behalf of a bill that would have placed new regulations on the rooftop solar industry, purportedly to protect consumers from abuse by unscrupulous solar companies. The solar industry “has not been able to police itself as well as it should,” Stump testified, according to the Miami Herald.

Public records obtained by the Energy and Policy Institute and reported by the Miami Herald revealed that the language Stump had flown to support with his testimony had been drafted by Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest monopoly utility. The FPL-drafted language was scuttled in replace of a compromise that the industry said it supported after the Herald’s reporting.

In 2018, Stump challenged Debbie Lesko, a state legislator who also has close ties with APS, in the Republican primary for the special election to fill the congressional seat of Trent Franks, but lost.

Stump intervening in case about APS’ efforts to raise rates to pay for the coal plant whose purchase he approved as regulator

As a regulator in 2012, Stump joined the full ACC in a 5-0 vote to approve APS’ purchase of the Four Corners coal plant.

At a time when other utilities were selling off or retiring coal assets, APS did buy the plant, which provided a golden opportunity for it to install expensive pollution controls and charge customers for them, plus a profit. Now APS is asking the ACC for permission to recover those costs from customers via a 2% rate increase, despite arguments that APS acted imprudently with its customers’ money by not investigating cleaner, potentially cheaper energy options instead.

Stump’s new Arizona Energy Policy Group did not specify its members in its initial filing before the ACC, saying only that they “include (and will include) investor-owned and public power utilities and 2 electric cooperatives in Arizona that serve millions of state residents.” The filing also did not make clear what arguments the AEPG could provide that APS wasn’t already making on its own behalf.

That’s ironic, since APS itself has actually tried to bar groups representing solar companies from intervening in its rate case on similar grounds. The company wrote of the Arizona Utility Ratepayer Alliance (AURA) in June of 2016:

“It is true that trade organizations, with an identifiable membership and representing distinct, otherwise unrepresented interests, have a role in Commission proceedings. But AURA does not fall into that category. Instead, AURA is a solar-funded lobbying organization. It does not have an identifiable membership, much less one that is directly or substantially affected by this proceeding. Further, AURA’s participation in this matter is both redundant and almost certain to unduly expand the scope of the docket. APS therefore opposes AURA’s intervention in this matter.”

Stump’s policy advisor for six years at the ACC, Amanda Ho, left the Commission in September of 2015 and immediately took a job as a senior attorney for Pinnacle West, APS’ parent company. She now works for APS as a Director of State Affairs and Regulatory Compliance, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Credit for photo of Stump: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Posted by David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is the Executive Director of the Energy and Policy Institute.

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