Arizona Corporation Commission Investigation

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Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Burns has launched an independent investigation into the influence of electricity regulation, which is under the control of the commission. Burns will discuss why he called for the investigation.

TED: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON" -- A CORPORATION COMMISSIONER WANTS TO KNOW HOW MUCH THE COMMISSION IS INFLUENCED BY APS AND OTHERS. > A PHOENIX WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT EARNS AN ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD. AND A NEW STUDY LOOKS AT SLEEP REQUIREMENTS FOR KIDS. THOSE STORIES NEXT, ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." "ARIZONA HORIZON" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU! TED: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS. STATE CORPORATION COMMISSIONER BOB BURNS HAS HIRED AN ATTORNEY TO INVESTIGATE THE INFLUENCE OF OUTSIDE FORCES ON THE COMMISSION AND THUS, ELECTRICITY REGULATION IN ARIZONA. JOINING US NOW IS CORPORATION COMMISSIONER BOB BURNS. GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

BOB BURNS: GOOD TO SEE YOU.

TED: YOU'VE HIRED A ATTORNEY TO LOOK AT AN UNEVEN INFLUENCE AT THE CORPORATION COMMISSION. TED SIMONS: WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE?

BOB BURNS: I GUESS I'D LIKE TO COMPARE IT TO SAY IF YOU HAD A BUSINESS AND YOU HAD PROBLEMS WITHIN THE BUSINESS, STRUGGLING TO OPERATE EFFICIENTLY OR WHATEVER THE PROBLEM MIGHT BE, AND A LOT OF THESE COMPANIES ARE NOT SMALL COMPANIES. A LOT OF COMPANIES ARE RELATIVELY LARGE COMPANIES WILL HIRE WHAT I REFER TO AS EFFICIENCY EXPERT TO DO AN ANALYSIS OF THE BUSINESS AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS HOW TO IMPROVE THE OPERATION AND I THINK THAT'S KIND OF A CLOSE -- COMPARISON TO WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT. WE USE A DIFFERENT WORD, WE USE INVESTIGATION. BUT WE'RE LOOKING FOR FAIRNESS WITHIN THAT SYSTEM. AND WE NEED TO DO A THOROUGH REVIEW, I BELIEVE, AND THEN I THINK WE'VE HIRED ONE OF THE TOP PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRY TO DO IT. THIS IS A VERY SPECIALIZED AREA, THERE'S, YOU KNOW, UTILITY REGULATIONS AND OPERATION. THESE ARE HUGE COMPANIES AND -- THAT PROVIDE POWER FOR PEOPLE AND SO FORTH.

TED: YOU MENTIONED COMPANIES HAVING PROBLEMs DO THIS AND YOU WANT TO SIGH AN THOROUGH INVESTIGATION. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE CORPORATION COMMISSION?

BOB BURNS: WELL I THINK IF YOU'VE BEEN FOLLOWING THE NEWS, THERE IS A LOT OF ACCUSATIONS AND PERCEIVED PROBLEMS AND APS IS SORT OF THE TOP OF THE LIST. I MEAN, THEY HAVE BEEN PERCEIVED TO HAVE CONTRIBUTED SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF MONEY TO CORPORATION COMMISSION CANDIDATES AND SO THE -- THE PERCEIVED PROBLEM OF POTENTIAL UNDUE INFLUENCE ON THE COMMISSION COULD CREATE A PROBLEM. I MEAN FOR RATEPAYERS AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS. WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE ENTIRE PICTURE AND SEE IF THERE ARE PROBLEMS THERE AND GET SOME ADVICE FROM SOMEBODY WHO HAS BEEN AROUND. THIS GENTLEMAN HAS WORKED AROUND THE WORLD ON POWER PLANTS AND SO FORTH.

TED: WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT UNEVEN INFLUENCE AND ADVANTAGE, WHAT KIND OF INFLUENCES ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

BOB BURNS: WELL, THE -- THE RATE CASE BOILS DOWN TO THE WAY I WOULD DESCRIBE IT -- AND THIS IS AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION -- BUT YOU HAVE THE RATEPAYERS ON THE ONE SIDE OF THE TABLE AND THE UTILITIES ON THE OTHER SIDE, AND THE UTILITY IS TYPICALLY LOOKING FOR AN INCREASE IN RATES. THE RATEPAYER, OBVIOUSLY DOESN'T WANT AN INCREASE IN RATES. AND SO THE COMMISSION IS SORT OF IN THE MIDDLE THERE TO MAKE THE DECISION WHAT WILL THE RATES BE? AND SO IT -- AND OUR JOB IS TO REPRESENT THE RATEPAYERS. AND SO WE NEED TO HAVE -- YOU KNOW, PERSONNEL, COMMISSIONERS, UNBIASED AND THERE TO EXAMINE ALL OF THE FACTS. THE -- THE POSITION FUNCTIONS SIMILAR TO A JUDGE IN A COURT. WE SHOULD -- WE HAVE SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF EVIDENCE THAT'S PROVIDED FROM ALL SIDES. IT'S NOT JUST ONE TYPE OF STAKEHOLDER, THERE'S A NUMBER OF STAKEHOLDERS AND RATEPAYERS THAT ARE AT THE TABLE AND SO IT'S THE COMMISSION'S JOB TO EVALUATE THE FACTS AND DETERMINE THE COSTS OF DOING BUSINESS BY THE UTILITY AND SET A RATE.
TED: DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY SO MANY PEOPLE, WHEN YOU SAID IT'S OUR JOB TO REPRESENT THE RATEPAYER, I IMAGINE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE GOING, WHO WE? THEY'RE NOT BUYING IT. DO YOU UNDERSTAND OUT THERE AND WHY THEY'RE THINKING ALONG THOSE LINES?

BOB BURNS: WELL, I GUESS, YEAH. THERE'S A LOT OF ACCUSATIONS ABOUT LACK OF NEUTRALITY, FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD, IN SOME CASES.
TED: YEAH.
BOB BURNS: NOW THERE'S NO EVIDENCE OF THAT. I MEAN, THAT'S ALL SORT OF PERCEPTION AND I WOULD LIKE TO BRING BACK CONFIDENCE IN THE COMMISSION AND GET RID OF THAT PERCEPTION OF LACK OF -- OR, THE LACK OF CONFIDENCE THAT EXISTS OUT THERE AND I THINK THIS GENTLEMAN HERE IS CAPABLE OF DOING THAT. AND NOW, COMMISSIONER FREE SAYS -- INDICATED HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE A CODE OF ETHICS DEVELOPED. I THINK THIS -- THIS INVESTIGATION, THIS STUDY, THIS REVIEW, WOULD GO A LONG WAY TOWARD HELPING US COME UP WITH A VERY GOOD CODE OF ETHICS, IF YOU WILL.
TED: WILL THE INVESTIGATION LOOK INTO POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY REGULATED UTILITIES AND OTHERS?
BOB BURNS: WELL, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO LOOK AT EVERYTHING. I MEAN, I THINK THAT WILL BE PART OF IT. I MEAN, THAT'S PART OF THE PUBLIC PROBLEM WITH WHAT'S BEEN GOING ON IS THE CONCEPT OF -- OF, I WOULD SAY, EXTREME, OR EVEN EXCESSIVE CONTRIBUTIONS IN CERTAIN AREAS.
TED: AND THIS WOULD INCLUDE APS, POSSIBLE APS DONATIONS. WILL THE COMMISSION ITSELF AND STAFF BE INVESTIGATED?
BOB BURNS: NOT INVESTIGATED, NO. THE STAFF AND COMMISSIONERS ARE, OBVIOUSLY, KEY PEOPLE TO BE INTERVIEWED. AND IT WILL BE UP TO THEM TO PARTICIPATE. AND I HOPE THEY WILL BECAUSE THEY WILL HAVE INVALUABLE INFORMATION TO PROVIDE IN ANY PART OF THE STUDY THAT'S BEING DONE.
TED: YOU ALSO WANT TO SEE CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS INVESTIGATED. ARE WE TALKING ALL NONPROFITS HERE?
BOB BURNS: NO, I THINK JUST BASICALLY UTILITIES.
TED: SO REGULATED UTILITIES ESPECIALLY, I WOULD IMAGINE.
BOB BURNS: LET ME BACK UP, NOT JUST UTILITIES, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO COME TO THE COMMISSION FOR -- AS BEING REGULATED.
TED: YOU'RE THE ONLY COMMISSION MEMBER WHO SEEMS TO WANT TO DO THIS. APS HAS SAID REPEATEDLY BY ANONYMOUS DONATION, THAT'S THEIR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT. LET'S BACK UP --
BOB BURNS: I DISAGREE WITH THAT.
TED: WHEN THEY SAY THAT, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
BOB BURNS: THERE'S A LEGAL RIGHT FOR THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ELECTIONS OF COMMISSIONERS. THAT WAS A SUPREME COURT DECISION. IT WAS LEGAL. HOWEVER, THERE'S NOTHING IN THERE ABOUT HIDING THE MONEY AND NOT HAVING TO REPORT. AND SO I THINK THAT IT'S IMPORTANT THAT IF A UTILITY OF ANY -- ANY UTILITY CONTRIBUTES TO THE ELECTED REGULATOR IN A CAMPAIGN, THEN THAT CONTRIBUTION OUGHT TO BE REPORTED AND OUGHT TO BE REPORTED IN REAL TIME. SO THAT THE VOTERS AND THE RATEPAYERS KNOW BASICALLY WHO THEY'RE SUPPORTING OR OPPOSING.
TED: NOW, THE REASON THAT YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON ON THE COMMISSION WHO SEEMS TO WANT THIS, WHAT IS THAT ALL ABOUT?
BOB BURNS: WELL, I THINK YOU HAVE TO ASK THE OTHER COMMISSIONERS. I CAN'T SPEAK FOR THEM. I DON'T KNOW WHY. I THINK IT'S -- TO ME, IT'S -- IT'S A -- IT'S ONLY LOGICAL THAT THE -- IF WE'RE GOING TO HAVE THE PUBLIC TRUST IN THE COMMISSION, WE NEED TO HAVE -- WE NEED TO HAVE TRANSPARENCY ESPECIALLY IN THE ELECTION PROCESS.
TED: CAN THE OTHER COMMISSIONERS BLOCK A CONTRACT TO THIS ATTORNEY YOU HAVE HIRED?
BOB BURNS: I THINK THAT'S POSSIBLE. TED: DO YOU THINK THEY'LL DO IT?
BOB BURNS: I HAVE NO WAY TO KNOW.
TED: HAVE YOU HEARD INDICATIONS THEY MIGHT DO IT?
BOB BURNS: WELL, I WOULDN'T PUT IT IN THE INDICATIONS CATEGORY. THEY'VE MADE COMMENTS THEY'RE NOT NECESSARILY IN FAVOR OF WHAT I'M PROPOSING DO HERE, BUT I DON'T KNOW IF THAT REACHES THE LEVEL OF BLOCKING OR NOT.
TED: IF THAT WERE TO HAPPEN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO NEXT?
BOB BURNS: I HAVE SUBPOENA POWER AS A MEMBER OF THE COMMISSION AND THERE'S, I GUESS, THE POSSIBILITY OF CREATING A LEGAL FUND IF NECESSARY. SO I THINK IT WOULD BE UNFORTUNATE TO LOSE THE -- THE EXPERTISE HE'S OF THIS -- THIS PARTICULAR PERSON, THIS ATTORNEY WE'VE HIRED. I THINK BASED ON THE INFORMATION I HAVE AND BASED ON HIS RÉSUMÉ, I THINK HE'S PROBABLY THE TOP -- OR, ONE OF THE TOP PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRY TO DO THIS JOB.
TED: SO MANY SAY YOU SHOULD HAVE USED THAT SUBPOENA POWER EARLIER. HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND?
BOB BURNS: I THINK IF I GO OUT AND BLASTED AWAY WITH A SUBPOENA, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A LEGAL BATTLE AND THINGS WOULD HAVE DRUG OUT AND DRUG OUT. THE WHOLE PROCESS WE'VE GONE THROUGH IS AN EVOLVING PROCESS. HOW DO WE DO THIS SO THAT IT -- IT COVERS THE ENTIRE AREA, AND DOESN'T FOCUS ON ONE PARTICULAR THING? LET'S DO THE JOB RIGHT AND GET THE ENTIRE PICTURE WHAT'S GOING ON AND GET A -- A NUMBER OF RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW TO CORRECT THE PROBLEM WE'RE IN.
TED: HOW LONG WILL THE INVESTIGATION TAKE?
BOB BURNS: HAS TO REPORT BY DECEMBER 15TH.
TED: LEFT EVER LAST QUESTION HERE, WE'VE HAD YOU ON TALKING ABOUT THIS IN THE PAST, BUT WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? WAS THERE A LAST STRAW FOR YOU?
BOB BURNS: WELL, THERE WAS A NUMBER OF STRAWS. I DON'T KNOW WHICH ONE WAS LAST. BUT -- THE INTEGRITY OF THE INSTITUTION IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. I'M SORT OF -- THE SUNSET OF MY -- OR, MY PUBLIC SERVICE. BUT THE COMMISSION HAS A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY. AND THE INTEGRITY OF THAT INSTITUTION, I THINK IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT.
TED: AND IT'S -- IT'S IN PLAY RIGHT NOW, ISN'T IT? IT'S NOT GOOD.
BOB BURNS: NO, THE PUBLIC IS NOT VERY -- VERY PLEASED WITH WHAT HAS BEEN HAPPENING IN THE PAST -- WHATEVER TIME FRAME YOU WANT TO PICK, I GUESS. BUT I THINK THIS IS A -- A -- AN IMPORTANT STEP IN RESTORING THE PUBLIC'S CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN THE COMMISSION. IF WE CAN INVESTIGATE AND IDENTIFY WHERE THERE MAY OR MAY NOT BE PROBLEMS BUT IF WE FIND PROBLEMS AND COME OUT WITH AN INDEPENDENT SOLUTION TO FIXING THOSE PROBLEMS, I THINK WE CAN GO A LONG WAYS TOWARD RESTORING THE PUBLIC TRUST.
TED: COMMISSIONER BOB BURN, GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE.
BOB BURNS: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Bob Burns: Arizona Corporation Commissioner

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