A rehearing of the rate increase allowed to Arizona Public Service from the Arizona Corporation Commission was scheduled for Tuesday, September 25 by Jane L. Rodda, Chief Administrative Law Judge. On September 13, a request for a two week extension was filed by Corporation Commission Staff. APS had been granted a 4.54 percent increase by the ACC in 2017. However, most consumers have seen their electric bills climb by a much higher percentage.
Stacey Champion, a single mom and small business owner has been leading the charge for the rehearing by petitioning the Corporation Commission to review their decision. She has been getting most of her funding through a crowd funded legal defense fund at fundedjustice.com. Two other consumers Richard Gayer and Warren Woodward are also challenging the rate hike.
In previous filings the Attorneys’ for APS had requested the hearing be expedited so as not have the matter close to the November election. The in a later hearing Corporation Commission staff had requested the hearing be put off until after the first of the year. A March 18 article by Arizona Daily Sun said over the last two years, APS and parent company Pinnacle West Capital Corp. spent over $10 million “to directly and indirectly influence elections and gave to other organizations to lobby”.
At the heart of the matter is what constitutes a base rate in 2015 and what a base rate is today. APS said 4.54 the percentage increase was based on ‘adjusted 2015 customer usage’ rates and that adjustors changed in 2016 and 2017. Adjustors change what is part of the base rate for electricity versus what is an added charge like a ‘meter reading’ or ‘billing’ charge that may appear on your APS statement. For example if ‘meter reading’ were part of the base rate in 2015 and now is a separate fee, the base rate would have been lowered when the ‘billing’ charge was separated out with no effect on the total cost. So separating out some of these fees or services lowered the current base rate. By using a two year old higher base rate it would make the increase appear smaller. In the APS filing it states, ‘establishing monthly bill impacts in 2017 or 2018 would not establish any relevant fact or any meaningful conclusion’.
Another concern voiced at a previous hearing was that wording in the documents approving the rate hike that said that AZCC staff would defend the findings of that previous hearing. However, staff is now being asked to do a nonbiased review of the ruling that they are supposed to defend. Judge Rodda allowed the review by Corporation Commission Staff.
As of press time no decision had been released on the requested extension. For more on the case you can go to the AZCC website azcc.gov, click on eDocket and search the case number E-01345A-18-0002.