Last week, representatives for Arizona Public Service were in the Verde Valley in two locations to discuss a proposed rate increase.

The first was a meeting before the Sedona City Council, which had joined with 40 other stakeholders around the state to ask APS and the Arizona Corporation Commission for a lower rate.

The second meeting was an ACC listening session hosted at the Verde Campus of Yavapai College in Clarkdale.

APS had originally asked for a hike of 7.96 percent, but that was negotiated down to 4.5 percent due to the intervention of these stakeholders.

APS had requested a smart meter opt out fee of $15, which was later negotiated down to $5. According to APS, this fee compensates for having to send a meter reader to each property without a smart meter.

Most of those who spoke at both meetings were less concerned with the rate hike or the analog meter reading fee, but instead wanted to discuss the what they believe to be the alleged negative health effects of smart meters.

As an aside to those individuals who will refer to numbers in their social media posts:

  • Only 20 percent of Sedona residents have opted to not have smart meters installed in contrast to the “40 percent” number local smart meter opponents claim.
  • Those who have opted out of smart meters statewide is 1.25 percent — only 15,000 of APS’ 1.2 million customers statewide.

Now that that’s out of the way, the larger concern for the majority of Arizonans is the slipshod way the Arizona Corporation Commission operates.

The city of Sedona notified the public about its meeting well in advance, but the ACC meeting in Clarkdale was only publicly noticed at the last minute. Although the ACC stated future meetings would be posted on the ACC website, the March 29 meeting was not noticed until late on March 24, and that was well after we were actually notified by phone by Commissioner Bob Burns, a Sedona resident, who called us to ask if we had gotten a press release or any notification from the ACC.

We immediately placed the meeting information Burns provided on our website to notify as much of the public as possible due to the ACC’s failure to be wholly transparent with ratepayers and voters.

The ACC’s actions are par for the course as it is no stranger to controversy, shady interactions with the public and allegations of corporate corruption.

In recent years, Commissioner Susan Bitter Smith was forced to resign due to conflict-of-interest complaints that she worked as a telecommunications lobbyist and may have used her position on the ACC to force APS to move a power station from a golf course for which she also lobbied.

Andy Tobin, selected by Gov. Doug Ducey to replace Smith, has a son-in-law and brother who both work for utility companies.

During the 2014 election cycle, Commissioner Bob Stump exchanged thousands of text messages with the head of a “dark money” group. Stump fought to have an investigation into his text messages quashed, eventually claiming that he deleted the messages and threw away the phone.

Other ACC candidates received $3.2 million for their campaigns by the same “dark money” group allegedly funded by APS. Both these candidates, Tom Forese and Doug Little, are now elected commissioners.

Smart meters aside, the biggest issue for Arizonans is whether the ACC is wholly transparent about its interactions with utility companies.

ACC decisions are not subject to votes by the Arizona State Legislature nor voters and if their objectivity is tainted, voters must question whether they are being treated honestly by officials who are supposed to regulate the utility industry.