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Updated Jul 29, 2014 - 5:52 pm

Group criticizes APS for alleged anti-solar tactics

Two supporters hold an anti-APS sign at a Tuesday protest in downtown Phoenix. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- A pro-solar group who wants some answers from Arizona Public Service held a protest in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Members of Tell Utilities Solar Won't Be Killed (TUSK) held picket signs and marched outside of APS headquarters near the Arizona Center.

The group is calling for the power company to "come clean" about its financial support of the campaigns of Arizona Corporation Commission candidates Tom Forese and Doug Little.

The commission regulates APS and other power companies. Solar customer Paul Mark of Peoria said that the two men are both anti-solar and are partial to power companies.

"They are the total mindset of whatever APS tells them to be," he said.

Members of TUSK also claim APS financially supports outside groups who attack pro-solar candidates.

"We want APS to stop the shady tactics," Mark said. "We want them to be transparent in their actions because we're paying them. We're their customers."

Mark also criticized APS' examples of how it supports "going green." He said that the company's offer to cut $30 off of the bill of customers who allow the company to put solar panels on their roof doesn't go far enough.

"There's absolutely no profit for that customer, other than the discount on their fee, which APS will probably jack the bill up," he said. "Then there will only be something like $10 off of their bill, you know. I would think that if I were giving up my roof to APS, I would want something more than $30 off of my bill."

The group believes that the outcome of the upcoming elections will greatly impact APS. The company has been supporting a plan that would have the corporation approve new taxes for solar customers, and it supports property tax on leased rooftop solar systems that would be enforced by the Arizona Department of Revenue. Because of that, the group wants APS to explain why several of its employees recently attended a retirement party for the deputy director of the revenue department.

After the protest, APS issued the following statement:

The political theater that took place outside our building today was the latest in a series of staged attempts to create media attention that advances the campaigns of certain Arizona Corporation Commission candidates by attacking us. It wasn't a protest, it was a campaign rally.

TUSK and the wealthy California companies that fund it have orchestrated a non-stop propaganda war for the last 18 months, distorting our record and attempting to disrupt our relationships with customers, regulators, investors and employees. They have misrepresented important Arizona energy issues to further the narrow financial interests of their clients.

And now they've thrown their support and rhetoric behind candidates for the ACC.

It would be irresponsible for us not to defend our company, which plays a critical role powering Arizona's economy and supporting our communities. No one disputes our right to participate in the political process, although some have voiced the opinion we should not exercise that right. What should concern all Arizonans is the way these publicity stunts are fueling speculative commentary in the media that is presented as fact, and then used in campaign literature to support certain candidates. Meanwhile, the toxic work of TUSK injecting politics into the regulatory arena goes along with no scrutiny.

In the end, we will continue to work productively and in good faith with any ACC commissioners elected by the citizens of our state. We have faithfully and reliably served Arizona for more than 125 years. That will not change.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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