Utility regulator seeks outside probe of heat death

Lea Marquez Peterson

By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

The newest state utility regulator wants an outside investigation of the heat-related death of an Arizona Public Service customer and the policies of the Arizona Corporation Commission and the actions of its staff that may have contributed to that.

Lea Marquez Peterson told Capitol Media Services Monday that the “accountability and answers” about what caused or contributed to the death of Stephanie Pullman of Sun City West last year have to come from APS.

But Peterson, named to the commission just a month ago, said the response she got from the agency’s own staff was “lacking a lot of information.”

Potentially more significant, Peterson said there is the possibility of a connection between the rate hike granted by the commission to APS in 2017 — a deal in which the commission’s own staff was one of the parties who agreed to the deal — and Pullman’s death.

More to the point, Peterson questions whether she and the public can rely on the answers provided so far by the staff to her and other commissioners about the whole incident. That also includes answers that are yet to be provided to what happened — and recommendations for how to alter the rules to prevent similar situations in the future.

“I think an independent group that wasn’t involved in the rate case, a third party, would be the best ones to address these different questions,” Peterson said.

Peterson acknowledged she’s “new to this process.”

“But from my perspective there’s always been such a cloud over APS and the different issues that come before it,” she explained.

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