- Arizona Corporation Commissioner (ACC) Andy Tobin resigned on Thursday, as Republican Gov. Doug Ducey tapped him to be director of the state Department of Administration.
- Ducey also appointed Lea Marquez Peterson in a separate same-day announcement to take over Tobin's seat on the ACC. Marquez Peterson formerly led the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as CEO and worked with utilities like Tucson Electric and Power and Arizona Public Service in that role.
- The ACC position "did not hold me back from taking what I think is a position where I can help rural Arizona more," Tobin told Utility Dive, adding that his frustration with staff did not play a role in the shakeup. However, during the commission's monthly public hearing in April, he criticized how unelected staff have slowed down his PURPA amendment and his energy modernization plan.
Tobin, who refers to himself as one of the most conservative members of the commission, began serving on the ACC in 2016 and was critical to establishing a moratorium on new gas developments and getting the solar net metering docket approved. He told Utility Dive that the ACC staff has an outsized control over commissioners and the ACC agenda although they are not elected officials.
"When they're trying to tell me that my [energy modernization] plan and then PURPA needed more time... their due process is when it's appropriate for them," Tobin said in an interview in April, following the release of a nearly 100-page ACC staff plan on energy modernization.
Tobin's energy modernization plan has yet to reach a vote, and Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, D, also submitted an energy modernization plan in February. He saw similarities between his plan and the staff's, which among other things included his storage component, requiring utilities to roll out 3 GW of energy storage by 2030.
"One of the things that will help [advance energy modernization] is my name won't be on it," Tobin said. "They're all trying to fight for credit."
Tobin's staff delivered his resignation letter on Thursday, which was effective as of the previous day at 11:59 p.m., according to ACC spokesperson Holly Ward. "The letter was the point when the Commission was officially informed," she told Utility Dive via email.
ACC Chairman Bob Burns told AZ Central that he was not told of the appointment of Marquez Peterson and had anticipated "communication between the Governor's office and the commission on the selection," which was not the case.
Marquez Peterson received donations for her congressional run in 2018 from Tucson Electric Power and APS' parent company, Pinnacle West. She confirmed to local reporters that while she was tapped to finish Tobin's term, she will will not accept money from utilities if she runs for the commission in 2020.
PURPA frustrations and due process
As in the April hearing, Tobin insisted on Thursday that ACC staff has misled commissioners, specifically Kennedy, regarding due process at the commission, in order to shift priorities to benefit utilities.
As the sole Democrat on the commission, Kennedy voted to reject Tobin's proposed PURPA amendment in April due to alleged problems with the ACC's due process, and Tobin views her as the deciding vote.
In a letter explaining her vote to originally dissent in April, Kennedy quoted concerns from the ACC chief counsel that the PURPA order could be appealed without due process.
"I object to this 'sixth commissioner' sitting here advocating for a practice... now finding another reason, another purpose for us to further delay this vote," Tobin said during the April hearing.
The proposal sought to set a 15-year minimum for contracts involving qualifying facilities under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) as soon as possible, as projects must break ground before the start of 2020 to qualify for credit.
During the May meeting, the remaining four commissioners advanced the PURPA hearing to August — staff had advised waiting until November at the April meeting, due to available bandwidth on other projects.
In November, the ACC will also have a hearing with Arizona Public Service, UNS Electric and Tucson Electric Power, which are seeking to establish a two-year maximum for contracts involving solar facilities over 100 kW. The prospect of such a short power purchase agreement is unattractive to developers.