COLUMN: APS further ensnares ratepayers

Navajo Generating Station power plant near Page, Arizona./Photo/Adobe stock

By Robert Robb | Arizona Republic

(Editor’s note: Opinion pieces are published for discussion purposes only.)

The extent to which Arizona Public Service is seeking to shift the risk, and cost, of its virtue-signaling to captive ratepayers is pretty astonishing. And brazen.

A small example. APS and Native American tribes hosting coal operations, most significantly the Navajos, announced agreement on what they are calling the “Just Energy Transition Plan.”

APS wants to shut down its coal generating stations earlier than previously scheduled. That creates a financial hole for the tribes. The plan provides $144 million in financial assistance.

Now, whether the tribes should be given outside financial aid to assist with a post-coal transition can be debated. And if APS wants to provide that assistance out of shareholder profits, that would be its business.

But very little of this assistance is proposed to come out of the pockets of shareholders. Instead, APS has filed the plan as part of its current rate case. APS wants the good publicity while sticking captive ratepayers with the cost.

If the tribes are to be given outside financial assistance for a post-coal transition, there’s not much of a case to be made that the captive ratepayers of APS should be the only ones paying for it. In fact, the best case is that it should be a federal responsibility, since the federal government still has a trustee duty to the tribes.

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December 2020