Like a jilted lover refusing to accept rejection, California billionaire Tom Steyer is back in Arizona after an epic loss last election cycle.
Steyer, whose attempt to increase renewable energy standards and costs in the state crashed out on the November ballot, has launched digital ads asking the public to sign a petition urging the Arizona Corporation Commission to reverse an Arizona Public Service (APS) rate increase that passed in 2017 by a 4 to 1 commission vote.
In a ruling against a complaint filed by a local political activist, an independent administrative law judge confirmed that APS implemented its rate increase according to industry accepted standards. Still, Steyer has decided to launch an attack against the company, apparently in an attempt to repair his image after his bruising 2018 defeat.
Even his former allies are questioning the move, upset that Steyer has once again decided to meddle in local Arizona issues.
“There are 10 better things you could’ve spent your $$ on in AZ,” tweeted Stacey Champion, who filed the initial complaint. “This battle aint’ one of them & I’m both pissed + insulted [sic].”
Steyer’s efforts in Arizona began in 2018 when his progressive political action committee, NextGen Climate Action, launched an effort to mandate that utilities provide half their annual retail sales from renewable energy sources by 2030 “irrespective of cost to consumers.” The effort excluded zero-emission nuclear energy from the definition of renewable energy.
In his latest effort, Steyer claims to be an advocate for the ratepayer, although his 2018 energy mandate, known as Proposition 127, would have increased costs on Arizona residents, including low-income families and small businesses. Estimates revealed the typical Arizona family would see its utility bills increase by $1,000 or more over the course of a year.
“Talk about sour grapes,” said Matthew Benson, spokesman for the No on Prop 127 campaign
“California billionaire Tom Steyer couldn’t buy his way into our Arizona Constitution, so now he’s tapping his accounts to meddle in a local utility rate case. Arizona voters couldn’t have been clearer in 2018: We’re setting our own energy future. California billionaires need not apply.”
More than 300 groups and individuals representing a wide range of interests joined to oppose Proposition 127. saying it would hurt consumers, cost jobs and eliminate tax revenues for schools and government agencies.
The Arizona Residential Utility Consumer Office also warned the initiative would force the closure of Palo Verde Generating Station, the country’s largest provider of emissions-free electricity. The loss of Palo Verde would have wiped out 3,000 jobs in the West Valley.
But as the election neared and it became clear the measure would fail, Steyer and his teamed quickly abandoned their ballot proposition and shifted tactics, attempting to smear state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and other local and statewide Republican candidates.
Steyer’s group spent more than $3 million in ads attacking the attorney general.
There was also the emergence of a progressive dark money group, ChispaAZ PAC, which dumped nearly $4 million in independent expenditures supporting Democratic candidates, including Sandra Kennedy, who was elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission.
ChispaAZ PAC is a project of the League of Conservation Voters, a left-wing activist organization focused on environmental policies that also has ties to Steyer.
“The idea that Tom Steyer is suddenly a ratepayer advocate doesn’t pass the laugh test,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesperson Garrick Taylor said. “In November he’s pushing an initiative that would jack up electricity rates, and six months later he says that he’s looking out for the consumer in a 2017 rate case? He can’t even keep his own positions straight.”
Proposition 127 was dealt a crushing blow on Election Day, failing 69 to 31 percent after proponents dumped $28 million into the campaign.