Democrats have made gains on the Arizona Corporation Commission over the last two election cycles.
In 2018, Sandra Kennedy re-took a seat she had previously held on the Commission. Former Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar won a seat in 2020. (Former Commissioner Bill Mundell, a former Republican turned Democrat, came close to winning as well.)
Former Tempe Vice Mayor and current Tempe Councilmember Lauren Kuby, a fighter against Dark Money and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University, is running to capture another seat for Arizona consumers in 2022.
Running on a ticket with Sandra Kennedy who is running for reelection, Councilmember Kuby vows to be an advocate for the consumer, not corporate dark money interests if elected to the Commission in 2022.
The Arizona Corporation Commission is sometimes called the fourth branch of government in Arizona. It was designed to:
“Protect the health, safety, and welfare of Arizonans. They oversee all business in the State, foreign and domestic, regulate all non-municipal utilities and rates, the safety of railroads, pipelines, and oversee the securities marketplace and brokers that sell those products.”
If elected, Ms. Kuby pledges to work to:
- Stamp out corruption and promote transparency on the Commission.
- Protect Arizona consumers, especially from onerous attempts to shut off electricity and water to vulnerable residents.
- Expand Arizona’s clean energy portfolio (especially in solar,) including improving access and affordability. The Republicans on the current Commission voted against adopting clean energy transition goals by 2050 and have, despite more ambitious initiatives by Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power, instead pushed for a 2070 deadline
- Reinvest in communities that have moved away from energy sources like coal.
The questions and her responses are below.
1) Please tell the readers at least two reasons why you would like to run for the Arizona Corporation Commission.
“I am running be a consumer watchdog, uncorrupted by corporate interests. The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has been a source of repeated scandals, giving the public every right to question its integrity. In the past, utility monopolies have handpicked those elected to regulate them, but the context is evolving under the leadership of Commissioners Kennedy and Tovar. As a council member, I am proud to have spearheaded ethics reforms and a successful dark-money initiative, which received 91.44% of the vote, the most widespread support of any ballot initiative in city history.”
“A majority on the Commission places utility profits ahead of the well-being of ratepayers in its unethical, immoral electric disconnection policy in extreme heat events. The Commission must not allow lack of bill payment leading to utility disconnection to be a death sentence and needs to come to grips with their part in the recent heat-related deaths and act swiftly. Note that our electricity bills are higher than neighboring states and there is less renewable energy adoption than those states.
“Though we are facing the first-ever shortage declaration on the Colorado River, megadrought, extreme heat, and increased wildfires and extreme events, a majority on the ACC continues to drag its feet on solar and other forms of renewable energy. With cost declines and significant technology improvement, now is the time to accelerate our clean energy future, putting Arizona in the best possible place to seize the clean technology jobs of the future. If elected, I am looking forward to joining with Commissioners Tovar and Kennedy to seize the opportunities before us.”
2) What are at least two qualifications you have to serve on the Arizona Corporation Commission?
“I am a Senior Sustainability Scientist at ASU with decades of work in the water-energy arena. I was part of the team that builds the Decision Center for a Desert City, a National Science Foundation research center focused on sustainable water management. I also manage ASU’s Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, which reaches out to communities and cities to connect the dots between housing and the social determinants of health, such as transportation, food access to food and healthcare, environmental quality, and social, economic, and racial justice.
“As a Councilmember, I have a strong record of fighting for residents and protecting working families – be it equal pay for equal work, earned sick days, or requiring skilled workers on development projects. On the Council, I have led the charge on climate-change solutions and climate action planning, represented Tempe on the AZ Municipal Water Users Association, and, working with changemakers at ASU, I championed the adoption of a 100% renewable energy goal for city operations.”
I brought transparency-in-government initiatives and elections reforms to Tempe. I spearheaded a local ballot initiative that reduced campaign contributions limits from $6250 to $500 per person and a popular dark money disclosure initiative. For these efforts exposing the corruptive influence of money in politics, I was featured on MSNBC.
I am a thoughtful, discerning person committed to protecting consumers and families.
I am running as a Clean Elections Candidate (Arizona’s clean funding program for candidates who agree to forgo special interest and high-dollar contributions) so I can spend my time meeting Arizonans, not fundraising.”
3) As of August 2021, what are at least two important issues Commissioners in the Arizona Corporation Commission have to face, and please explain why.
“The Commission is considering new energy rules. Existing rules only require 15% renewables by 2025. Former Commissioners (and former Republicans, now Democrats) Bill Mundell and Kris Mayes led the way. Today’s standard lags behind not just California, but Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.”
“Proposed rules before the Commission would require electric utilities to reduce their carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2032 and to zero emissions by 2070. That was a compromise because Kennedy and Tovar were intent on a 2050 standard.
“In the fight against climate change, near-term action counts more than mid-century action. APS has vowed to be carbon-free by 2050. We need to move quickly, and the Commission needs to lead the way. There’s also important strengthening of energy efficiency and battery storage goals which are both key components of our energy future.
“The utilities have left behind a significant burden on coal communities, especially in Indian country, and we need to spark rural re-investment. We cannot abandon, but must in fact reinvest in these communities. I am heartened that this topic is top of mind at the Commission.
4) If elected in the 2022 elections, what are at least two issues you will work on as a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and please explain why.
“I would like to advance work on community solar, which was not addressed in the 2021 drafted Clean Energy Rules. Community solar — where multiple parties share in the power and/or financial benefits of a solar electric system — would expand access to affordable solar energy to renters, low-income households, and those whose roofs are not ideal for solar. All Arizona consumers should have access to use that resource, which grows cheaper by the day.”
“We need to reform the incentives in which our utilities operate from the current cost-based structure which only encourages them to spend more at the expense of ratepayers, to a performance-based compensation system where utilities are rewarded based on meeting regulatory goals (e.g., solar, hydrogen, and battery integration, safety, securities and investments, reliability, water, energy efficiency, and customer service.”
“I am watching the current discussions on helping coal-impacted communities to transition their economies, and I would seek to advance discussion on requiring/incentivizing utilities to invest and re-invest in climate resilience, mitigation, and adaptation.”
5) Is there anything not covered in the first four questions that you would like the readers to know about your candidacy or the Arizona Corporation Commission? Please explain.
“I am a national leader on “preemption,” or state interference in local decision-making. The legislature and governor moved to block Tempe ordinances requiring dark money groups to disclose their expenditures in our elections. They heeded the call of corporate interests and prohibited us from regulating single-use plastic and Styrofoam containers that litter our communities. I have been called the poster child of preemption and I wear that moniker proudly! Cities should be allowed to make decisions in the interest of their local communities. Now, the Legislature is threatening the autonomy of the Corporation Commission, hankering to have the Governor appoint commissioners in clear violation of the drafters of Arizona’s Constitution which was created elected positions to thwart the influence of lobbyists). Not on my watch!”
“I look forward to being a conduit for re-fueled ideas about clean energy at the Corporation Commission. Applied research at ASU, U of A, and NAU in renewable energy and “utilities of the future” can help catalyze a clean energy future in Arizona. I will strive to be ethical in my decision-making. I will represent the ratepayers and be a watchdog – ever protective of consumers consumer. Ultimately, if I am elected, I will hold the utilities accountable.”
“Arizona has the power to lead the way on climate change action and clean-energy adoption. Transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy – energy-efficiency, wind, solar, and electrified transportation — will protect our kids and families from pollution, create new jobs and local economic opportunities, and ensure that ALL people have access to affordable energy solutions. Moving toward a clean-energy future will not only reduce carbon emissions. This transition will serve to create jobs, protect our health, conserve water, and give us cleaner air.”
Click on the social media sites below for more information on Lauren Kuby and her candidacy for the Arizona Corporation Commission: