My record of independence speaks for itself
Op-ed submitted to the Arizona Republic, By Justin Olson
In last week’s column, Laurie Roberts questioned why I considered information provided to me by industry experts when I responded to questions from a Wall Street analyst covering the utility sector. She implied that this indicated a lack of independence from APS. Nothing can be further from the truth.
My record of independence speaks for itself. It is a record of thoughtful consideration of all relevant information, and a record of supporting positions that are in the best interest of the ratepayers whether those positions are supported or opposed by APS.
For example, APS adamantly opposes retail competition. When I saw that Texas ratepayers on average pay 12.9% less than Arizona ratepayers and Texas has enacted retail competition, I called for the commission to consider enacting retail choice, notwithstanding APS’s long history of opposition. Additionally, I sponsored amendments to the commissioner’s code of ethics to prohibit commissioners from accepting campaign contributions or anything else of value from the utilities we regulate—a policy that I adopted for my campaign immediately upon being appointed to the commission. Most importantly, I led the effort to require utilities to reduce their rates and pass their income tax savings on to ratepayers. These efforts resulted in reductions of more than $190 million annually at utilities all across Arizona. My record of supporting positions that are in the best interest of the ratepayer is clear. It is absolutely inappropriate to imply that I have been anything but independent of APS.
Acting independently of APS and in the best interest of the ratepayer does not mean that I will never agree with the utility. For example, I independently evaluated all of the evidence available regarding Proposition 127 and independently determined that putting this mandate into our state constitution will be harmful to ratepayers (see my op-ed on October 5, 2018). So I have opposed this measure as has Laurie Roberts according to her column on October 8, 2018.
The fact that Ms. Roberts and I share the same position as APS in opposition to Proposition 127 does not imply that either of us is a puppet for the utility. Neither does the fact that I included factual information that I received from industry experts in my responses in a public interview.
My responses in the interview also included information received from experts in the solar industry. For example, I pointed out in the interview that solar energy generation is now competitive with traditional energy generation methods and called that cost reduction a great success story. Additionally, I excluded significant amounts of the information provided to me by APS because I independently evaluate all of the information I receive to determine what is accurate and relevant. My remarks only included factual information that was consistent with my position of supporting policies that are in the best interest of the ratepayers.
I have an open door policy that applies to all who have information for the commission to consider. I meet regularly with advocacy groups and the solar industry experts as well as experts in traditional energy generation methods. Most importantly, my open door policy includes traveling all across the state to hear firsthand from the people of Arizona. I independently evaluate all of the information that I receive and appropriately determine what is accurate and relevant to the public policy making process. Then I support policies demonstrated to keep rates as affordable as possible while maintaining safe and reliable public services.