An hour long debate featuring the candidates running for three open seats on the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission.
Ted Simons: Good evening, ask welcome to this special vote 2012 edition of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is an hour-long debate sponsored by the citizens clean elections commission. We'll hear from candidates competing for three open seats on the Arizona corporation commission. As with all of "Horizon's" debates this is on a -- not a formal exercise, it's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give and take between candidates for an important public office. As such, interjections even interruptions are allowed, provided that all sides get a fair shake and we'll do our best to see that happens. Seated to my right is democrat Marcia Busching. Republican Susan Bitter Smith. Libertarian Christopher Gohl. Democrat Sandra Kennedy and incumbent commissioner. And Republican bob burns, a former state senate president. To my left are green party candidate Thomas Meadows, democrat Paul Newman and incumbent commissioner. Republican Bob Stump, also an incumbent commissioner, and green party candidate Daniel pout. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier we drew numbers to see who goes first and that honor goes to Marcia Busching.
Marcia Bushing: Thank you, Ted. Hello. If I have the privilege of being elected to the corporation commission, I want to do three things. First, I want to keep your utility rates fair and reasonable. Second, I want to help Arizona become a leader in renewable energy. And third, I want to encourage a job creating business environment. I have a reputation of thorough preparation and ability to sort through complex issues. Thanks not only to my background as a real estate and business attorney, but as a small business owner. And former member of the citizens clean election commission. I want to use my mediation skills to create an atmosphere to reach consensus and bring new energy to Arizona. Again, I am Marcia Busching, and I ask for your support.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Up next is Thomas Meadows.
Thomas Meadows: Hi. My name is Thomas Meadows, and I'm the green candidate this year for corporation commissioner, one of two. And I want to introduce myself first as a small business owner. I make a stand for main street, consider myself a superhero for small business owners everywhere, and also I'm political activist. I have been a member of occupy Phoenix now for the past year, and I also stand up for environmental issues. I also want to make sure that everybody gets a fair shake. As corporation commissioner I want to make sure that everybody has a chance to be able to start a small business. But at the same time, we need to have people in these positions that have environmental issues in their hearts and minds as well. And this is a position that cannot only help clean up the environment, but make sure that corporations aren't running amok in this state, taking advantage of people and also to make sure that small business owners also get a fair shake as well.
Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. And next we hear from Christopher Gohl.
Christopher Gohl: Good evening. My name is Christopher Gohl. I'm a United States Coast Guard veteran. My qualifications include port state control officers, marine science technology and foreign vessel inspector. The qualifications I garnered in the military allow necessity to implement safety and security protocols and Kemp receipt and enforce the code of federal regulations related to the shipping industry. I'm currently a student at ASU, studying sustainability, and I believe my military experience in dealing with international policies, being familiar with the daily operation of liquid natural gas tankers, gas facilities and oil refineries, not to mention chemical, container and car carrying vessels, will get the commission a valuable perspective. A military perspective. I'm not a lawyer, I'm not a politician. I'm a veteran. Now I'm a concerned citizen.
Ted Simons: All right. Christopher, thank you very much. The next opening statement comes from Sandra Kennedy.
Sandra Kennedy: Good evening. I'm Sandra Kennedy and I currently serve on the Arizona corporation commission. I seek reelection so I can continue to help create fuller jobs and boost the state's economy. There have been more than 16,000 jobs in the solar industry, created within the last two years. And over $2 billion in economic activity in Arizona due to the solar industry. I want to build on that economic growth in solar. Along with the energy efficiency standards that I helped implement. We can achieve energy independence, now that solar costs less than coal, nuclear, and burning trash for energy, solar is Arizona's future. Arizona's power needs will grow by 50% in the next few decades, and solar energy can fill the gap and provide thousands of sustainable jobs.
Ted Simons: We need to stop you there. Thank you very much. Up next with a one-minute opening statement is Daniel Pout.
Daniel Pout: Hello. My name is Daniel Pout. I'm a candidate for the Arizona corporation commission. With the green party. I'm standing for election this time for three reasons. I'd like to get across three policy positions right now. The first one is I'm calling for an end to service terminations for residential customers from electric power and water. Secondly, I'm opposed to rate hikes. Right now the larger corporations, the larger utility monopolies in Arizona are making far too much profits during a serious downturn in our economy, while the citizens of Arizona are struggling, they're not. And I intend to fight on behalf of the Arizona citizens.
Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. Now we next hear from Susan Bitter Smith.
Susan Bitter Smith: Good evening. I'm Susan Bitter Smith, I'm proud to be part of the Republican team for the Arizona corporation commission. The commission is hopefully you now know, sets water and power rates for you as a citizen. So it impacts your daily income and outgo every single day. Very important to you as a taxpayer and a ratepayer. I'm an Arizona native and a small business owner, have been for over 25 years owning a business. I've been privileged to serve you on the central Arizona project board of directors, a number of those years as president. CAP is a primary water supplier to Arizona, and the largest single consumer of electric power. So I know the issues very, very well. I'm here as a candidate because I am committed to making sure that ratepayers have access to sustainable and renewable supplies, but at an affordable rate and accessible to all of them throughout the year. I look forward to hearing the other candidates and I thank you for watching this evening.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Our next opening statement is from Bob Burns.
Bob Burns: Thank you. Good evening. I'm a candidate for the corporation commission because I am very concerned about the economic future of Arizona. I heard statements in this past week about the fact that some believe that there are 94% of the citizens of Arizona who want solar. That's all well and good, but also included in that statement was that they would be willing to pay 25 to $50 a month additional on their rates. What wasn't said, is what would happen with the rates going up for all of our merchants, and all of our providers of services, in addition to the rate for power that's used in the residents. So I believe that would create a ripple effect in the state that would be unsustainable.
Ted Simons: Bob, thank you very much. And the next opening statement is from Paul Newman.
Paul Newman: Good evening. My name is Paul Newman, and I am currently corporation commissioner running for second term. I'm a former state legislator, I served six years in southeastern Arizona, and former Cochise county supervisor, and I've been an attorney since 1988. I'm running on the solar team with Marcia Busching and Sandra Kennedy, and we're trying to bring more solar to energy. Over 90% of the people in Arizona want more solar, and the utility companies and other rules that are on the books at the corporation commission is holding that back. If we can take a majority of the commission, we can change the policy in Arizona and bring more solar jobs to Arizona, not gas jobs to Oklahoma.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And now with our final opening statement, Bob Stump.
Bob Stump: Thank you, Ted. The corporation commission has been called the most important government body you've never heard of. I think that's a pity, because the five of us have our hands in your pocketbooks on a daily basis. This commission has achieved what some believed was impossible; it's helped procure more renewable energy while protecting rate players. And it has accomplished this with great support from the solar alliance, solar city and other solar groups. Indeed Arizona is now number two overall in solar installations in the entire United States. It's number one in rooftop solar in the southwest. Solar installations increased 3 hundred 33% between 2010-2011. Agua Caliente is the largest solar PV plant in the world. This Republican majority has helped more people procure more solar at a lower cost in any commission in Arizona history, all while protecting ratepayers. But our work is far from done and I look forward to returning to the commission with your vote next year. Thank you.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Candidates thank you all. Let's gets to get to the discussion. Marcia, the role of renewable energy in Arizona's energy profile and how much the commission should be a part of that role.
Marcia Busching: Well, Ted, as you know, the commission did set a renewable energy standard five years ago, and that has been upheld by the court. I firmly agree with the fact it set that standard, and believe that the -- it should continue, and we should increase the standard going forward. It has been a great job creator for the state, it's brought a lot of solar to the state, it's brought as Mr. Stump said, a lot of dollars into the state. So it's been very beneficial.
Ted Simons: Susan, do you agree with that?
Susan Bitter Smith: I agree the renewable standard should say the same. As bob alluded to and Bob Burns indicated as well, solar is doing well in Arizona, under the current standard. A key to this discussion is what it costs ratepayers. I think that's where the Republican team is focused on making sure we have renewable supplies, but at an affordable rate, because ratepayers come first, and it's not a great economy to be juggling with a formula that's already working.
Ted Simons: Paul, what do you make of this, the idea of the commissioner taking a greater role, is the current role good enough? What do you see as far as the commission and renewable energy?
Paul Newman: Certainly we should go into a new phase. We have a very profound and strong energy efficiency standard trying to save $9 billion over the next 20 years. $9 billion of ratepayer money. We care about affordability too. There are -- it needs to be look at again to see whether we're doing what's right for Arizona and the entire country. The other states around us, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada have all increased their renewable energy standards, most of the times through the legislature. The corporation commission is where the buck stops on this issue. And I think that the 80-90% of the Arizonans who want us to do more, this is the method of doing it more. We need to study it.
Ted Simons: What do you think, Bob?
Bob Stump: As I said in my opening statement, I think the policy that is in place currently is a good policy. I think that's been proven. To me it functions as a laboratory. And so it gives us an opportunity to see what works and what doesn't work, and maintain a level of cost to the ratepayers that is affordable. The proposal to vastly increase the solar mandate and increase costs significantly across the board at this time of our struggling economy would be very irresponsible move in my belief.
Ted Simons: Senator, what do you think? A responsible move right now?
Sandra Kennedy: I think it's a very responsible move. I agree with Commissioner Newman. I think my GOP opponents are living in the 19th century and have continued to move Arizona forward. We can't move Arizona forward by allowing a trash incinerator as renewable energy. That's an oxymoron. And I think that solar is affordable. We just need to find a way to move in the direction and do what the people in the surveys say they want more renewables.
Ted Simons: Bob, 19th century. What do you think of that?
Bob Stump: Well, as a matter of fact, this commission has enabled more Arizonans to procure more solar at a cheaper cost than any commission in Arizona history. As regarding trash burning, I find it ironic because it's -- President Obama's EPA which in fact classifies waste energy as renewable energy. In fact --
Marcia Busching: the difference is --
Ted Simons: hold on just a second.
Bob Stump: There are 400 installations throughout Europe that employ this technology, 24 states that employ it. It is indeed renewable energy, and I'm glad my Democratic friends have at least one disagreement with President Obama's energy agenda.
Ted Simons: Go ahead. What were you going to say?
Marcia Busching: The trash burning facility that was approved in Glendale is an unsorted trash burning facility. That is quite the contrary from what has been approved in Europe and approved in other places. And we do have trash burping in the form of biomass, twigs, small plants, that kind of thing that is truly plant and green energy that's being burned, and that is renewable energy. But when you put just garbage, rubber, plastics and things like that, into a trash burning facility, and incinerator, it is no longer renewable.
Bob Stump: Ted.
Ted Simons: Please.
Bob Stump: In fact that's not accurate. It is precisely this sort Pfaff silt that the Obama -- facility that the Obama EPA has classified as renewable energy. Along with 24 states, it's widespread throughout Europe and Asia. This is a mainstream technology and it is in fact renewable energy.
Ted Simons: Before we get to you, Paul, Thomas, the idea of policy being set for the corporation commission, how far, how much?
Thomas Meadows: I see a lot of people talking about the issues, but I don't see a lot of people here lately that's been taking action on the issues. I'm the candidate who believes actions speak louder than words. A lot of these policies are talked about, but nobody really wants to take any action on them, simply put because we have too many puppet politicians in politics. And I joke a lot about the purple party and a lot of people don't get that when I talk about it, but when you think about what color does red and blue make, really we actually are living under a one-party system rather an two-party system, which is why candidates like me are running for office now because we're trying to splinter the vote to make sure there's less control with the monopoly and corporations.
Ted Simons: But I want to get back to the idea of the corporation commission and its role in setting some sort of energy -- Christopher, what kind --
Christopher Gohl: Thank you. It was my understanding being the novice here, maybe the rookie on the block, the commission does not dictate to the ultimate companies what will work in their portfolio. And I do not have -- let me put it this way -- I have a problem with APS, SRP and Tucson Electric being a monopoly and monopolizing power, energy, and communications needs to the citizens of Arizona. I find that is a problem. And I think what we're supposed to be here, the corporation commission, I've got the general sense that we are watchdogs. I'm a sheep dog. I want to make sure the consumers get their rates, there is a fair rate of return to the utility companies, albeit that's the world we live in, but I don't think the corporation commission is doing what it's supposed to be doing.
Ted Simons: OK. Daniel, is the corporation commission doing what it's supposed to be doing?
Daniel Pout: To me it's an elected body of citizens. It set bite constitution of Arizona and as an elected body, elected by all of the people of Arizona, it needs to take a tough stance, it needs to be -- have as much power as any other elected body in the state. It's looking over a very important sector of the economy, and it needs all the power it can to deal with that.
Ted Simons: Paul, you wanted to weigh in on the trash issue?
Paul Newman: Just as an example, the reason why the trash burner is not the best use, a moment ago someone made a statement about how much the corporation commission has the power to do to work with the utilities to say what the utility of the future is going to be and what our energy mix is. We have a lot of power, as the fifth branch of government. And what I wanted to say was that the trash burner is a bad choice because all the folks that live in Mohave County will not have any money for solar. All that money, all the incentives that they pay will go into a trash burner. They didn't elect that to happen, Mohave County did it, and the Republican majority OK'd it as a demonstration project for a friend of theirs, Mr. Glen do, who will make profit from this agency. It is a sad statement and I'm filing a brief in that case as we speak. But the most important thing is that we have 50% more energy needs, 20% we can get rid of through energy conservation, and the 30% left should be majority renewables, a little bit of gas, but not nuclear like some of these folks want, like my Republican colleagues.
Ted Simons: Susan, is nuclear energy a renewable energy?
Susan Bitter Smith: Nuclear energy is an opportunity in Arizona. And it's an opportunity -- when it's affordability and appropriate for customers. I think that's a discussion the commission might have at some future point in time. I don't think it's an opportunity in the immediate future. But clearly if it's affordable and it's an opportunity to add to our portfolio, much like natural gas would be, much like making sure we have continued access to clean coal. One of the big differences we have between the Republican team and Democratic team is the Democratic team supports the Obama administration in trying to shut down existing power plants that are here in Arizona that are providing very necessary resources. We often talk about the Navajo generating station which is the power supply to the Central Arizona Project. Republicans believe that it is not appropriate for the EPA to simply arbitrarily try to shut the plant down. It's an affordable and accessible opportunity for Arizonans and if Obama and the EPA have their way, we will find ourselves paying a lot more for energy.
Ted Simons: Sandra, can you respond to that, please?
Sandra Kennedy: You know, the president, we are of the same party, but don't quite agree. I think that we have the nuclear plants here as part of the mix, but solar can fill the gap. And I think that my GOP opponents talk about the ability to -- for the federal government to tell us what to do. This has been a discussion that has been ongoing for years. And it started under the bush administration. This did not occur under the state of Arizona, and I believe that people have known that it was coming. There needs to be something done.
Ted Simons: Bob, I want you to comment on that.
Bob Burns: On the nuclear?
Ted Simons: Yeah, the --
Bob Burns: I think nuclear is very important component in our system of energy generation. Solar with all its benefits, does not provide power at a rate that is sufficient, especially at night. What do we do when the sun no longer shines? We need a base of power, a base of energy and nuclear fits part of that particular component.
Ted Simons: Daniel, please.
Daniel Pout: Talk about nuclear power as being cheap, that's after the citizens -- let's ask the citizens of Japan how cheap it is. Why don't we ask -- Japan is phasing out nuclear power by 2030. And I suggest we do the same.
Ted Simons: Thomas, do you want to add to is that?
Thomas Meadows: I agree. And echoing here what Daniel said about nuclear power, there's really nothing nuclear -- renewable about nuclear power. It creates more environmental issues, ever than it helps, and there's no such thing as clean coal. There's no such thing as natural gas that's good for the environment. And to answer bob's question from earlier, what do you do when the sun goes down? That's what a windmill is for. There's other ways you can decentralize yourself as a homeowner from the power grid and save a good 20, 30 grand a year by not using electricity from the utility company.
Ted Simons: Susan?
Susan Bitter Smith: Just to be clear, the Navajo generating station was started under the Obama administration. And those at CAP have been battling that since that was initiated. I will say that there is a role for solar in the GOP team, Republican team supports solar, but you have to have that in the balance with other resources as well, because the cost is really the issue and the cost benefit is what I think the commission members need to look at.
Ted Simons: Marcia.
Marcia Busching: The current majority on the commission, including Mr. Stump, has been chipping away at the solar -- at the renewable energy standard by decreasing the incentives, calling trash burning a renewable energy, cutting down the research. And so the truth of the matter is while the Republican team says they support solar, they really haven't been promoting solar whatsoever. When they start talking about the generating station and the Obama administration, the corporation commission does not have any jurisdiction over that. That is purely a federal matter, and the corporation -- and the Navajo generating station isn't even -- isn't even managed by any of the utilities under the control of the corporation commission.
Ted Simons: Bob, chipping away at solar?
Bob Stump: Let's talk about what the Republican majority in fact has done. Let's look at the facts of what we've done at the corporation commission. We have put forward a program called rapid reservation which some of the democrats on the commission opposed. And unfortunately, I'm sorry they 8 posed it, because in fact Arizona is now obtaining twice as much solar at a dollar a watt versus $2 a watt. We're pursuing policies that bring about cheaper solar for Arizona residents. Many of these policies have been opposed by my Democratic friends. The solar alliance offered amendment, which Gary pierce offered, tying incentives to market demand. If the incentives are too high, the rush for those dollars and installers go out of business and fewer people will be able to participate in solar. The fact of the matter is, this Republican commission has enabled more people to procure more solar at a lower cost. APL will confirm that, TEP, people in the solar community will confirm that. I find that accusation simply not in tune with the facts.
Ted Simons: What do you make of this Paul?
Paul Newman: I wanted to say something very important. The Republicans did come up with the RES in 2006; democrats started on that, Jennings worked on that as well. We have to do a phase two of that. I don't know about the Republican charge, but if you count all the number of electrons, the renewable energy electrons, we're only 24th in this country. In solar. When we had a working majority with Chris Mayes, a Republican and Sandra Kennedy and I, we did very well. What's been happening is a chipping back. And I want to conclude with this -- the chairman of the corporation commission, Mr. Pierce, allowed a bill and support add bill in front of the legislature to do away with the authority of the corporation commission, and the sitting Republican members did not prevent him from going to do that. That bill almost passed. It would have taken away all authority regulation in the state. That's where they're really at. They're not promoting solar like the solar team is.
Ted Simons: Bob, the idea of the renewable energy standard, either not being under the purview of the corporation commission, the commission overstepped its bounds, we've heard about that, the legislature should be responsible for those sorts of things as opposed to the commission. Do you agree with that?
Bob Burns: Well, I don't think that's an issue anymore. That issue has been solved by the courts. The legislature --
Paul Newman: how did Mr. Pearce appear with that bill fits been resolved?
Bob Burns: The bill didn't pass.
Paul Newman: The Republican majority still fighting the commission.
Ted Simons: Let him respond, please.
Bob Burns: I guess one person is the Republican party now. I don't understand your point.
Paul Newman: The chairman of the commission tried to do away with the authority of the ACC. I found it very unbecoming of his office.
Bob Burns: Well, I guess that's your opinion.
Paul Newman: Most every lawyer --
Ted Simons: hold on, let him speak.
Bob Burns: If I get a chance --
Ted Simons: Go ahead.
Bob Burns: The legislature made an attempt, they felt that was their territory, that was the position of the legislature or the responsibility of the legislature to set policy. And that was a policy decision. That issue was challenged in court, and it's been decided by the courts that the corporation commission had the authority to do what they did, and it's done. And I don't think it will change until another proposal is developed, which will be different with different parameters and it will go throughout entire process again if that's the case. So I think we need to not dwell on that issue. That's a moot point, in my opinion.
Ted Simons: Should the -- Christopher, should that standard be increased?
Christopher Gohl: Can you repeat the question?
Ted Simons: Global energy --
Christopher Gohl: I'm getting wrapped up in all this rhetoric.
Ted Simons: The power needs are supposed to hit a certain level by 2020, 2025. Should that be increased? Should more renewable energy be required from the utilities?
Christopher Gohl: You know, renewable energies is actually a misnomer. Energy is released. Renewable energy is not renewable. It's not. I believe that, yeah, we can use a bible energy source in the -- a viable energy source which will be a wide based portfolio, including solar, natural gas, whipped, hydroelectric, geothermal. By 2025, we're looking way off into the future here, I'm not doing this for my kids and my children's children. I'm doing this for now. For the present. If we have the technology, if we can do it right now, then by all means, we should get a move on. And I don't know if we're stagnant right now with the corporation commission, they should be on the ball here. Constitute can everything they can within their power to go ahead and pry up that renewable standard, quote unquote. I feel uncomfortable using renewable energy as a term.
Ted Simons: Sandra, what do you think? Should that mandate be addressed again, and should the requirement be increased?
Sandra Kennedy: I'll answer your question, I'd like to go back and address the rapid reservation that Mr. Stump mentioned. I supported rapid reservation. But when you have an amendment to add a fee on to those who want solar, who go out and get solar, who want solar in Arizona -- Arizona is the best state or the -- I'm sorry, the best state and we want to make sure that Arizona grows in solar, but you have Commissioner Burns who offers an amendment which is a deterrent for solar to have an increased fee. That is not a good thing. You cannot say that you're for solar when you in essence add fees on top of fees.
Ted Simons: Respond, please.
Sandra Kennedy: If I could --
Ted Simons: Quickly, go ahead.
Sandra Kennedy: If I could, states around us have solar. And they have their percentages are a lot higher than ours. What I find myself doing today is fighting to keep the standard that we currently have. When you're fighting to keep what you have, I'd love to increase it, but how can I increase it when you currently fighting to keep it?
Ted Simons: Bob, should the standard -- is the standard -- is the standard a good thing as it stands, should it be increased?
Bob Stump: I think it is a good thing as it stands. And should it be increased which I think would be folly, Arizona ratepayers will be paying a pretty penny. I think as it now stands at 15% they can afford it. If I would respond to Commissioner Kennedy's comment about the quote unquote fee, Commissioner Burns's amendment simply asks people to continue pay into the rest like all of us do if they're going to take advantage of solar energy. Most of the people I spoke with in the solar community didn't have a problem with it. A couple individuals did, but I think this is a perfectly reasonable proposal. As far as rapid reservation is concerned, we're obtaining twice as much solar at $1 a watt versus $2. We have policy disagreements. I appreciate certainly Commissioner Kennedy's support on many of my amendments, I'm happy to support many of hers. So we do operate on a bipartisan level on some issues. On other issues we have strong disagreements.
Ted Simons: Daniel, please.
Daniel Pout: We talk about the rest, and keeping a very low standard, a low percentage of renewable resources, we do that -- we -- what we're really doing, what I want to ask is, let's raise the standard and let's have APS, let's have the big utility monopolies, let's have them pay for it. APS paid $230 million to their -- to -- in dividends last year. They're not squeezed here. Let's stop squeezing the ratepayers and start squeezing the utility monopolies.
Ted Simons: Susan, first of all, is the standard a good thing, should it be increased?
Susan Bitter Smith: I think it is appropriate, and I do not believe it should be increased. We're number two in solar. And we have utility companies that are working hard to reach that that level and move on ward without having the government do additional mandate. I'm worried Christopher is losing interest in what we're saying. I'm hoping we're going to talk about some of the things the commission actually does. Which is 80% of what they deal with is water issues. That's my personal interest. And I'd hope we have an opportunity to talk about that too, because water is so vital and it is related to the issue of solar energy because we use often times there's water involved in some solar technology.
Ted Simons: Marcia, renewable energy standard. Good thing, and it shouldE should it be increased?
Marcia Busching: Yes. The renewable energy standard is a good thing. In my opinion, it should be increased. We need to work with all the parties to come up with what is reasonable. Right now Arizonans pay only about 3% of their utility bill towards renewable energy. Whereas they pay nearly 30% of their utility bill for fuel, for uranium, for coal, and for natural gas. So increasing the renewable standard helps transition us from that expensive fuel cost to basically free renewable energy.
Ted Simons: There are other issues that the corporation -- one last try here. Go ahead.
Paul Newman: I know a lot of the debate is on renewable energy standards, but that is not what it's all about. We want to increase our renewable energy standard, increase that mix, so we can have energy independence and jobs for Arizona. We have to be a watchdog over this process, because the utilities won't do it on their own. That's why the corporation commission has the rate making powers to put a tariff on. We need to be looking at that tariff in phase two. In order for Arizona to become the capital, the solar capital of the southwestern United States and bring us energy independence, we need to move forward. The Republicans would have -- who are running now would have never have voted for renewable energy standard to begin with. They're against it philosophically. I understand that. But they shouldn't be running for corporation commission. They should be running to be a watchdog for the commission, not a lap dog.
Ted Simons: Bob, quickly.
Bob Stump: I'm a little perplexed, my Democratic friends talk about this wonderful solar renaissance and in the same sentence say Republicans are slashing solar. It seems like a contradiction. So that's one thing. Secondly, I think is the proof is in the pudding. We've discussed Arizona's great strides they've made, thanks in part to a Republican majority at the commission. Facts are facts.
Ted Simons: As far as energy infrastructure, water infrastructure, infrastructure in general, what are the challenges, what are the concerns, how would you as a commissioner address those concerns?
Bob Burns: Well, infrastructure is critically important because without the infrastructure you don't get the product delivered or the service delivered, or the energy delivered. So that's one of the balancing acts that the commissioners have to make. We have to keep rates low for the ratepayers. And we have to make sure that we have health aye utilities. Both water and power. I don't think we want to be a state that is suffering from blackouts or state that has water shut-downs and so forth. So we meet -- we need to make sure the infrastructure stays healthy, and that means that the utilities have to be healthy. It's all part of the mix that gives us a lifestyle that we can enjoy.
Ted Simons: Sandra, is the infrastructure healthy, and if not, what needs to be done?
Sandra Kennedy: Recently we had a southwest gas case, and in that case we had -- looking back to what they -- what the explosion over in California, we looked at the infrastructure here for southwest gas. Unfortunately, Mr. Stump voted no for that rate case. In that rate case southwest gas got a financial increase, an upgrade in their financial status, which means that they will get money coming into Arizona to build old -- to remove the old dilapidated infrastructure. Not only will that infrastructure be removed, that will create jobs into Arizona. When you look at water, water is a huge issue. And a lot of the small water companies do build new infrastructure, and they like to see the money they put into that infrastructure become part of their revenue or that base. And sometimes it's an issue, but I think we need to look at that and continue to look at it for the future.
Bob Stump: Thanks. I voted no on the southwest gas case Dawes I didn't think it was fair for the company to receive extra funds due to weather events. One of the hosts of this debate, AARP came out very strongly against decoupling. But in terms of repairing aging water systems, that is one thing we're going to have to look at very carefully at the commission. Of course water utilities are far more capital intensive than electric utilities. And so there are a variety of mechanisms that the commission I think will need to pursue working with the water companies to ensure they have a capital they need to repair the aging systems.
Ted Simons: Thomas, importance of infrastructure. Talk to us.
Thomas Meadows: Infrastructure primarily I believe it needs to be changed, because right now we have too many career politicians who are puppets, and it's up to the state taxpayers of Arizona to clip those strings and primarily take back their government by finding people who are actually going to do their jobs and serve the people rather than serve corporations and monopolies who continue to create these environmental issues and continue to make the problem worse by throwing money at the problem and expecting it to go away. That's not how you solve the problem. You solve the problem by coming up with a solution. And that requires fresh ideas and new technologies.
Ted Simons: Susan, let's talk about infrastructure for water and energy. The challenges, how you would address those challenges.
Susan Bitter Smith: Specifically the water infrastructure problem is one I'm very concerned about. There are over 400 small private water companies the commissioner regulates. Many of them are afraid to come to the commission because the regulatory process is so complicated, it requires a water lawyer, a hydrologist, expert witnesses and there are many, many anecdotal stories about these problems that are now requiring water companies to duct tape their infrastructure, actually shut down providing water service to a lot of Arizona. There are obviously solutions. There's solutions that have been discussed by stakeholder meetings that needs to be implemented. They involve incremental rate setting; they involve allowing for infrastructure to develop into the rate setting so you don't have the sticker shock many water customers have had over the last couple years. There's an opportunity here to actually do something, to make a change, to make a difference to the state of Arizona and it's something I'm certainly committed to do as Bob and Bob are, we think it's a vital and important thing to start immediately in 2013.
Ted Simons: Marcia, please.
Marcia Busching: The infrastructure situation varies among utilities. Certainly for the water companies there are a number of water companies like Ms. bitter Smith mentioned that do have problems and that we do need to work on taking care of how they can get enough funds in order to solve those. On the other hand, companies like APZ has given the commission a resource plan and has said currently they have enough resources, but they expect that they're going to need 55% more resources in the next 15 years. And that's going to require the building of more power plants. So it really varies among utilities.
Ted Simons: Paul.
Paul Newman: Well, infrastructure for water is -- we have a lot with SRP, and CAP, with regards to our local water companies, a lot to replace, a lot of infrastructure to replacement unfortunately that costs more money when you look at the rate making process. Because you have to balance that against the ratepayers' needs. We've been very, very successful in getting what we call environmental money into some of these small companies to deal with some of these infrastructure problems. But if there was just a recent article on -- in the "Wall Street Journal" about the price of water being undervalued, where that is. We have a lot of work to do with Arizona folks about the price of water. I'm not saying it will go up exponentially, but we have to make a lot of investment and that involves an important part of rate make process. If I might just say, with regard to Sandra's statement about safety, that's a big part of what we do. Pipeline safety, and all different safety things that they could go -- there have been a lot of deaths over this. Also transmission line infrastructure as well as broad band infrastructure for telecommunications are all infrastructure needs that we have.
Ted Simons: Sandra, let's talk -- obviously water a major factor, but you've got transmission lines, other energy infrastructure that needs to be addressed. What does need to be addressed, how would you address it?
Sandra Kennedy: What I would do, Ted, is I would talk with the utility companies, and I would ask them to go out and assess Arizona. And their territory, what would I like for them to do is to install a rooftop solar unit on every home in their territory. That way they don't have to build new infrastructure, and the power goes straight to the grid. It not only helps them from building new infrastructure, or new power lines, but it actually puts people to work.
Ted Simons: Christopher? What do you make of all this?
Christopher Gohl: From a military perspective, Ted, we definitely need to harden our target. As Ms. Kennedy alluded tomorrow We have 600 miles of transmission power lines that are left unguarded, unmonitored, and that's a big problem. In my book. It's a real big problem. Our infrastructure is weak. It's weak. And it's open season on anybody who wants to shut us down. Not just as a state, but as a country. And we need to take government subsidies; some of these subsidies from this present administration are quite Frankly ridiculous. We can use those subsidies to hard I don't know those targets, retrofit those installation and make Arizona safe for the consumer and its citizenry.
Ted Simons: Very quickly, I want to go as quickly as I can before closing statements. Daniel, should the corporation commission be in the business of mandating energy?
Daniel Pout: Absolutely. The corporation commission is being set up to watch over that sector of the economy. The utilities, to regulate and to make sure the people of Arizona, the residents in Arizona are getting what they want, what they need from these companies. They're not going to do it on their own. Until we -- so we need a strong corporation commission.
Ted Simons: What do you think, Bob? Is that the business of the corporation commission? We've talked about renewable energy standard, demand side, is that what the commission should be doing? Because again, some argue that's the legislature's responsibility.
Bob Stump: Well, as I said before, I think the legislature wants buy-in as to the decisions we make. And there of course was a bill offered of dubious constitutionality in this past session. But I think the relationships that we have with the legislature will go a long way towards encouraging that buy-in. So obviously the commission has constitutional duties that it is bound to perform, and of course it is by necessity involved in rate making and the renewable energy standard is part and parcel of that rate making.
Ted Simons: Again, this goes back to what we were talking about before. I want to get more of a clear response from everyone. Is this the business of the corporation commission?
Bob Burns: Well, yes. It is, now. It is -- if you're talking about the renewable energy --
Ted Simons: Energy mandate in general, should it be something the corporation commission looks at?
Bob Burns: It's been decided. The courts have made the decision for us. They said yes, the corporation commission acted properly, in setting those standards. So I think until that whole picture changes, it is the responsibility of the corporation commission. The corporation commission in my opinion is there -- it's not just my opinion, it's there because of the constitution. It was constitutionally established and basically what we end up doing as commissioners on the corporation commission is managing monopolies. Because that's the system that has been set up. And so the rules are there now as they stand, and we need to operate within those rules.
Ted Simons: Marcia, what do you think?
Marcia Busching: I agree with Mr. Burns. The commission was set up to manage monopolies, and we are in the business of setting policy, day in and day out, whether we give a better rate to consumers or a better rate to businesses. So each one of those is a policy that we need to decide.
Ted Simons: Mandate, Susan, business of the corporation commission?
Susan Bitter Smith: The state constitution and our forefathers in their wisdom set up this anomaly, which is an elected body with separate constitutional powers, and we are regulating monopolies. Which is a little bit of an unusual occurrence. It's difficult for everybody to certainly understand. Given that, the commission has the opportunity to decide what kinds of things are mandated and what kinds of things are not mandated. And I think you're seeing two differences between Republicans and democrats about what those mandate are and how far they go.
Ted Simons: OK, Sandra, what do you think?
Sandra Kennedy: I think the constitution has set forth what we are mandated to do, and I agree that the job at the commission is set forth, and I, along with my other Democratic opponents,too.
Ted Simons: We got you. Paul, real quickly.
Paul Newman: Yes. Yes, article 52 in the constitution sets out that we have to balance the constitution, the interests of the monopoly versus interests of the consumer. I always say that we look out for the interest of the consumer. And what I'd like to say is this, about --
Ted Simons: We can't let you say that because I want to get Thomas in here real quickly. Is it the job, the corporation commission, constitutionally yes, but how enthusiastic would you be about that job of mandate?
Thomas Meadows: Well, I for one, correct me if I'm wrong here, the constitution is pretty clear about monopolies. I think the job as a corporation commissioner to be create a more competitive market by breaking up monopolies rather than mandating and regulating them. We need a more spread across the board type of business structure here to where everybody has a place at the table.
Ted Simons: OK. And we'll have to stop right there because we've got to get to closing statements. Each candidate will give a one-minute closing statement. Once again we drew newspapers to determine the order, and Marcia Busching goes first.
Marcia Busching: Thank you, Ted. Just as Arizona is celebrating 100 years of statehood this year, so is the corporation commission been setting rates for 100 years. I want to see a diverse energy portfolio. I want to see movement towards renewables and natural gas and away from coal. And I want to see increased solar for schools, community facilities and residences. I contrast that with my Republican opponents who want to chip away at the encouragement of renewable and who go outside their authority to fight against cleaner air. The future is right. With the right people on the corporation commission, we can keep your utility rates fair and reasonable. While creating jobs, and investing in Arizona's future. Will you please vote for me? Marcia Busching.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Our next closing statement is from Daniel Pout.
Daniel Pout: Hi, I'm a little disappointed we haven't spoken at all about the service terminations; there were over 70,000 of those in Arizona last year. We need to put a stop to this. The Arizona corporation commission has the power to lay down the rules, that these utility monopolies have to abide by. And if I were to be elected that certainly is something I would work toward. We need to end completely end service terminations. We need to ask the utility companies to share the burden of economic depression we've been going through. I don't feel we've got that from any of the candidates. As a green party stands as a progressive alternative and I'm proud to represent that party tonight.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Our next closing statement is from Bob Burns.
Bob Burns: Well, as I said in my opening statement, I think the economy is the critical issue here. The increase in mandate costs money. Rates are affected by an increase in mandate. And so? This current economic condition that we are in, that increase in rates I believe would be very harmful to the overall economy of the state of Arizona. So that issue I believe is as I said before, I think we have a laboratory of place that does a good job of finding out what works and what doesn't work, and we need to be very careful as we move forward in this time of economic stress to make sure that we don't further damage what's going on in our economy. So I believe the responsible thing to do is to stay with the standard as it is now and see how it develops.
Ted Simons: Thank you Bob. Our next closing statement is from Christopher Gohl.
Christopher Gohl: Thank you, Ted. As what I've stated in my platform, I'm done serving my country. Now it's time to serve my indicate state. I believe in constitutional preservation and that we should watch our elected officials. I will not be a part to bypassing the electorate and I many not allow a transfer of wealth from the upper middle class to corporations. I will not contribute anything to towards Arizona's loss of sovereignty which would result in regional governance. I oppose anything involved in breaking state or jurisdictional boundaries as well as infringement upon private property rights, I will oppose anything that violates private property rights.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And now Thomas Meadows with the next closing statement.
Thomas Meadows: So you've heard a lot of the candidates tonight talk about this position being a watchdog. As corporation commissioner, I hope to do three things if elected. Number Wynn, that's to keep the scum out. Nobody gets an LLC or an Inc. set up without having to go through this office first. So to make sure that the market stays fair and nobody is getting scammed, that would be number one, using my business experience to make sure that everybody gets a fair shake without anyone breaking the law. Number two, taking care of environmental issues. That has been echoed throughout the entire evening, and number three, to make sure that the people actually have a public servant and not a public puppet sitting in this position.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Our next closing statement is from Susan Bitter Smith.
Susan Bitter Smith: Thank you, Ted. Hopefully tonight you've had a chance to hear a little bit about the corporation commission and seat differences between the candidates for the three open seats on the commission. As you've heard the commission is a variety things, but primarily is to set water and power rates for public utility companies and private water companies. As a candidate hopefully as a commissioner, I'm committed to making sure that Arizonans and all of us are Arizonans, benefit from the opportunity of having a diverse energy portfolio, but it is affordable and that includes not only power, but also water rates. I encouraging you to look at the corporation commission websites of all the candidates. Ours particularly is www.courtcom2012.com and I too would appreciate your vote.
Ted Simons: Our next closing statement is from Paul Newman.
Paul Newman: Thank you. I'd like to say thank you for the forum and again, I'm asking for the public support of constituents from all of this state. I'm the only commissioner from southern Arizona, first one in 25 years, and I would like to be reelected. I ask you these sort of rhetorical questions. Why more natural gas than solar when the price of gas is so volatile? Why create out of state jobs when we can create solar jobs in state, not energy jobs in another place. Why ignore our most substantial natural resources, 71 the solar team of Sandra Kennedy, Marcia Busching and myself represent the future of Arizona. We would like to see Arizona's solar grow, and that will create good jobs for the businesses and the people of Arizona. I met a young man the other day who's begging for a job, saying I represent so many people with my message. I am here, I am running to create solar jobs for Arizonans.
Ted Simons: Paul, thank you very much. And our next closing statement is from Sandra Kennedy.
Sandra Kennedy: Thank you, Ted. To prepare for the future, we must elect commissioner who's have a vision for Arizona's future. We must reclaim solar energy development for our economy. We must also work hard to conserve water. Which is a scarce resource. We must be creative in finding ways to save ratepayers their money, and that regard I have worked with all stakeholders to streamline the rate process at the commission as a result, ratepayers and small businesses are saving money by not having to pay utilities attorneys for a long drawn-out process. And we have completed the most recent APS rate case in less than one year, and it was a zero base rate increase. Voters have a clear choice in the November election, the solar team or the trash team. I ask you to vote for Sandra Kennedy or the solar team.
Ted Simons: And thank you very much. And for our final closing statement, we turn to Bob Stump.
Bob Stump: Thanks, Ted. Arizonans have a clear choice in this election. On the one hand their there are commissioners who have worked to make solar energy cheaper and more abundant. On the other, some who promote vastly more expensive storms of solar. Do we want less solar at greater cost or more solar at lower cost for more people? So my Democratic friends talk about Arizona's solar renaissance and in the same breath claim Republicans are slashing solar. This is the great myth of this campaign. Arizona is number two in solar installation in the United States. The Republican majority have helped more people procure more solar at lower cost than any commission in Arizona history. All while protecting ratepayers. This is a record that I'm proud of and that Arizona can be proud of. Sue sang, bob, and I pledge to be responsible stewards of the environment but we also pledge to be responsible stewards of your money. We will pursue energy sources that are affordable, abundant, and reliable and we would appreciate your vote.
Ted Simons: Thank you very much. And thank you all, candidates, thank you for watching this clean elections debate on "Arizona Horizon."
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