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Forese To Chair Corporation Commission, Promises Reform

(Photo via Arizona Corporation Commission)
Tom Forese

Two thousand seventeen promises to be a big year for the Arizona Corporation Commission, the powerful regulatory agency that oversees the state’s power and water companies, among other things.

Many in the energy industry are watching to see how this new panel of regulator handles some of the more contested issues.

On Tuesday, the Arizona Corporation Commission swore in its three newly elected members and tapped Tom Forese to take over as chairman.

The change of power didn't go entirely unopposed. First, Commissioner Bob Burns, who won re-election in Novemeber, nominated Doug Little, who has chaired the commission for the past year. Little declined that offer, after which Commissioner Andy Tobin nominated Forese.

After the vote, Forese acknowledged the challenges facing his agency. Recently that’s included controversy over conflicts of interest, accusations that regulators are too cozy with utilities and an increasingly politicized fight over solar energy.

While Forese wrote off some of this criticism as "political" or an effort to influence commissioners, he also suggested reform would be a priority.

“It is our duty to take this moment and look inward and ask how much of this criticism is justly deserved and what we must do to set this house in order?” Forese said.

Forese is proposing a 10-year audit of the commission, a code of ethics, increasing public access to some records and a conference to explore new energy technology. 

This year, commissioners will decide on proposed rate hikes for many Arizonans, how to apply new methodologies for charging solar customers and whether to support Burns' legal battle with APS over alleged dark-money spending in the 2014 election.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.