Incumbent ACC candidate focused on 'affordability'

Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 23:44:03-04

PHOENIX — Just over a year after being appointed to the job, Lea Marquez Peterson, the only incumbent in the race for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission, is hoping that voters will keep her there.

"I like to describe myself as practical solutions focused on affordability for all of our customers," she said.

The Republican was appointed to the seat by Governor Doug Ducey in May of 2019. She replaced another Ducey appointee, Andy Tobin after Ducey assigned him another position as director of the Arizona Department of Administration.

Now Marquez Peterson, a Tucson resident and former CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is running as a Clean Elections candidate for the seat on her own accord.

"I think the breadth of the duties that we tackle, most of the public would be surprised. I've really enjoyed this. I love serving the public," she said.

She touts her support of approval of pandemic-related rebates for Arizona Public Service customers, and the recent passing of a potentially money-saving energy efficiency program for APS customers she says "had been sitting in backlog for more than two and a half years" as some of her accomplishments on the Commission.

"So we are getting some stuff done related to customer relief. Of course, there could always be more. And I continue to fight that every day," she said.

But one issue the Commission has not been able to come to a consensus on is how to update the state's renewable energy standards that have not changed since first enacted in 2006.

"We have some pretty different ideas on how we can achieve clean energy and zero carbon emission in the state of Arizona," she said.

That was on full display during a recent open meeting where Marquez Peterson and Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, a Democrat, were debating the target timeline for when utilities should reach 50 and 100% clean energy.

"The primary differences are 100% carbon-free by 2040 in her case..2050 in my case," Marquez Peterson said during the meeting. "And she has interim targets that I'm not comfortable with."

She says the Commission hears 70 to 80 rate cases per year. Including the current APS rate case in which the company is requesting a $184 million rate hike.

When asked how she balances the ratepayers desire not to raise rates, with the requirement that utilities make a profit, she said, "It's just a conversation, I think with the ratepayer. So that they fully understand that this is it's like a three-legged stool, we need reliability, we need sustainability, we need affordability."

She says getting ratepayers to understand that balance requires more communication from the Commission through more public sessions and making the website less complicated to navigate.

"You really got to know how the system works to find the information you're looking for. I think we could do better," she said.