ACC’s Doug Little heads for D.C. amid swirling investigations

Arizona Corporation Commissioner (ACC) Doug Little will be heading to Washington D.C., finding sanctuary in a Department of Energy (DOE) position as legal questions surrounding his (as well as fellow commissioner Tom Forese’s) 2014 elections continue to swirl.

Little has accepted a job to join Secretary of Energy Rick Perry as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and External Affairs. In that capacity, Little is expected to provide strategic advice to the Secretary of Energy and Department officials regarding intergovernmental and stakeholder issues.

The Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs serves as the Department’s main point of contact with state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as with stakeholder organizations.

“In a very short time, Doug went from being a political outsider to the chairman of the Corporation Commission and now one of the highest ranking officials in the DOE,” said Tom Forese, ACC chairman. “I am proud of everything he has accomplished, and I believe this to be a huge win for Arizona. I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

Little’s departure comes amidst continued interest into a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into 2014 races. The Arizona Republic has speculated that this could be related to allegations that Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s largest utility (and which is overseen by the ACC) improperly made donations to Little and Forese’s campaigns in 2014 in an effort to install more utility-friendly commissioners. The FBI’s probe has already resulted in the indictment of former ACC Chair Gary Pierce.

Fellow commissioner Bob Burns is also interested in the circumstances surrounding the 2014 elections, filing a lawsuit that is trying to see the APS records surrounding that election to see if any improprieties existed. Despite dogged and extremely public efforts, Burns’ efforts have gone nowhere, and the records remain sealed, AZCentral reported.

If not explicitly pro-utility, Little’s own biography on the ACC website indicates a lack of interest in renewable energy, solar or otherwise. The bio reads:

As a strong supporter of a diverse energy portfolio, Commissioner Little has long advocated for traditional generation technologies like natural gas, nuclear, and clean coal. He is also a strong advocate for the adoption of new technologies like energy storage, as well as energy efficiency, and energy conservation programs.

Despite Arizona’s advantageous insolation rate, Little doesn’t mention solar except obliquely, discussing reforming net metering in the state.

Little served as chairman of the Commission in 2016 as a contentious value-of-solar docket made its way through the commission process, ending in December with a decision that could have severely damaged rooftop solar in the state by introducing uncertainty into rooftop-solar payoff times. Recently, however, APS and solar advocates have agreed to a compromise deal.

Little will leave his ACC position on Sept. 29, providing the opportunity for Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint his replacement. Depending on who Ducey picks as the replacement could determine who will run for what would then be an open seat next year.

Correction: This article was corrected at 1:36 pm EST on 9/21/17 to specify clarify that while the FBI investigation into 2014 statewide races is ongoing, it is currently only speculation by Arizona Republic reporters that this has to do with the ACC races (and speculation backed by an indictment of a former ACC chair), not fact. We regret the error.