Out with the old, in with the old: Tobin resigns from ACC

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In one of the more dramatic regulatory shakeups so far this year, Commissioner Andy Tobin of the Arizona Corporation Commission, the utility regulatory body for Arizona, has announced his resignation. Tobin is leaving the regulatory agency to become the director of the state’s Department of Administration.

Tobin’s resignation marks the end of a four-year seating on the commission, marked duly by his “Energy Modernization Plan,” which pv magazine has covered in extensive depth, and his and an appearance of buddy-buddy relationships with the utilities he was regulating.

Tobin has been replaced by former president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lea Marquez Peterson (R). You may remember Peterson from her bid for Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House this past fall, where she was defeated by Ann Kirkpatrick (D). The appointment makes Peterson the first Latina to hold statewide office in Arizona.

Tobin resigned rather abruptly and unusually, just hours before the commission voted in favor of a plan to have Arizona Public Service (APS) file a new rate case. The decision comes in the wake of APS reporting a $17.9 million profit through the first quarter of 2019, compared to $3.2 million from Q1 2018.

Tobin’s resignation also comes after the airing of his frustration at the ACC, following the stalling of his proposed PURPA amendment. Tobin’s amendment would have included a 15-year contract mandate for projects that fall under the policy. In his agitation, Tobin stated his objection to a “sixth commissioner,” on the ACC, inferring his concern that commissioners’ views were being directly swayed by non-elected ACC staff members.

While Peterson’s appointment means a new face on the Commission, it doesn’t necessarily mean a new identity. ACC has long been accused of being in the pocket of APS, a claim that is supported by a mountain of evidence including an FBI investigation and the previous reference of Tobin’s texting with APS heads.

It’s worth note that Peterson received $2,500 in the Republican primary election last year from Pinnacle West, the parent company of APS. Now, for the sake of objectivity, it is also worth pointing out that Peterson’s competition,  Ann Kirkpatrick, received $5,000 from Pinnacle West, showing that the real difficulty in Arizona may be finding  a politician that has not taken money from APS.