Public meetings begin again tonight on proposed APS rate increase

Power lines in Arizona
Posted at 4:01 PM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 22:49:32-04

PHOENIX — In Phoenix, Arizonans have faced the hottest summer ever on record.

Temperatures are expected to climb back above 110 degrees this first weekend in September, so more dangerous heat is on the way.

The A/C in many Valley residents' homes is likely working overtime and the cost of cool is showcased in their electric bill.

Are customers ready for it to go up?

Back in July, the AZCC offered two chances for the public to call or write in with their thoughts on an increase that would bring roughly $184 million dollars to APS each year.

Our Let Joe Know team listened to about 60 people call in. A majority said they did not support the increase.

Now, the AZCC is offering six chances for members of the public to participate in the discussion. The first is Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.

Community groups like CHISPA Arizona, Puente Arizona, and the Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter worked together to send a letter to the company's CEO, saying that now is not the time to make Arizonans pay more.

You can read the full letter here:

September 1, 2020

Mr. Guldner:

On behalf of our more than 80,000 members and supporters, and the 100 congregations we work with across Arizona, we are writing to you with a simple request: to forgive and forget the debt your customers are accruing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our families are facing the perfect storm of crises: record heat and record unemployment in the midst of a global pandemic. Just last week, nearly 90,000Arizona residents filed first-time unemployment claims []. Our unemployment rate is at a startling 10.6% — even higher than the national average. At the same time, we’re setting other records that none of us want — including the most 110 degree days in a year [], and the hottest summer ever recorded in Phoenix []. When the average high outside is over 107 degrees, saving money on our utilities is just not an option. This is compounded by the fact we need to stay largely sheltered in our homes — and can’t seek relief in libraries, cooling centers, or malls.

We are fighting to stay safe, healthy, and strong during this unprecedented time of challenges — but APS is going out of the way to make that even harder. Tonight the Arizona Corporation Commission is holding a public comment session on your proposal to actually RAISE rates, and add to the severity of this storm. Our families will be hit with massive bills in October when the shutoff moratorium comes to an end and bills come due — how are we expected to make it when a rate increase then follows?

The good news is, there is something you can do that would make a huge difference for the lives of Arizonans: You can forgo this rate increase and forget the debt accrued by families during COVID19.

We know you are a business, and you’ve made it clear profits come first. But there are multiple ways for you to both make profits and prioritize people right now. We saw you report that you expect that the “financial impact from suspending shutoffs from March to May because of the pandemic, and again from June to October, ‘will be in the $20-30 million dollar range [].’”

Coincidentally, this is precisely the amount you improperly charged customers in 2018. [] You could take this $28.4 million in improper overcharges that you owe to Arizonans and wipe out all of the pandemic debt.

While Arizonans are struggling, APS is making more money than ever. In your latest quarterly report, you tout making $48 million more in profits than this same quarter last year [] because of hotter-than-normal temperatures. That means you could decide today to wipe out all of the debt — and still make more in profits than you did last year.

What sound like trivial numbers to you is the difference between families keeping food in the fridge, making rent, and keeping the AC on during this record heat. We need you to stop raising rates and making life harder for Arizona families — and start doing something to make it better.

Please, forgo the rate increase — and forget the debt, APS.

We ask that you respond to our request, and thank you for your prompt consideration.

Chispa Arizona

Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter

Our Voice Our Vote

LUCHA – Living United for Change in Arizona

Mi Familia Vota

Arizona Interfaith Power And Light

Puente Arizona

"I feel like we're living in a very different world than APS is living in right now," CHISPA Arizona Executive Director Laura Dent told ABC15 Arizona.

Dent said she has not yet heard back from APS about the letter that was sent. They do plan on speaking at the meeting on Tuesday evening.

"Arizonans are really struggling," Dent said. "Our unemployment is at a record high. We're facing the hottest summer on record. We're in the middle of a global pandemic."

As mentioned in the letter above, they are asking that APS "forgo this rate increase and forget the debt accrued by families during COVID-19."

"It's incredibly important for folks to use their voice," Dent said. "All of us get an electric bill. We're all touched by this. But, particularly, low-income families, communities of color... are impacted first and worst by increased utility bills."

ABC15 Arizona requested an on-camera interview with APS.

Instead, a company spokesperson said that a statement would answer all of our questions.

This is the statement in full:

"Times are hard for many Arizonans these days from lost income to record heat to changing school routines. To do our part as a local Arizona company, we’re offering customers more help with their bills, and our essential workers throughout the state are keeping the power on for homes and communities. No customers – business or residential – are being disconnected for nonpayment, and we urge customers struggling to pay or whose financial circumstances have changed to check in with us. These customers may qualify for support ranging from a $100, one-time bill credit for residents and $1,000 for small businesses to an ongoing 25% discount off their energy use. The money we have pledged to pandemic support is one of the largest commitments of any utility in the country because we are all in for Arizona and understand the challenges our customers face.

Regarding our rate case, we filed that last fall. As with all rate cases, we are seeking recovery of investments previously made, including investments in generation facilities that are running faster and cleaner this summer, hard at work keeping the power on for customers."

To reach out to APS about your bill, customers can call 602-371-7171. There is also a COVID-19 Resource page on their website. Click here to access that.

If a customer would like to speak at Tuesday's meeting about the proposed rate increase, call 1-866-705-2554. The passcode to speak is 241497#. The passcode to listen only is: 2414978#. According to a press release from the AZCC, "Callers may call up to 30 minutes early to get into the quene to speak. A three-minute time limit shall be imposed per speaker..."

If a customer would rather speak in writing, they can submit comments here.

If a customer does not want to speak or submit a comment, but does want to listen in - they can watch starting at 6 p.m. here.

If a customer would like to attend another meeting, here are the dates and times for more upcoming public meetings on the topic:

Friday, September 25 from 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, September 30 from 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, October 24 from 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 7 from 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Monday, November 30 from 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.