Paul's Note - January 10th, 2020

Our local electric utility, Tucson Electric Power, is asking the Arizona Corporation Commission for a rate hike. There will be a hearing on Monday, January 13th and you’ll have a chance to weigh in.

The proposed rate increase would mean $76 million for the company, which would be $7.61 per month for the average residential rate payer.

I was briefed on the rate increase a few weeks ago, and there are a number of things that frustrate me beyond what is being asked of you as a consumer.

One is that TEP’s current energy portfolio only includes 18% renewables. They’ve promised an increase to 25% over the next five years, but that will still leave the vast majority of our power being provided by non-renewable sources. The company got headlines when they announced that they were no longer using the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, but their own projections still show that they will be getting at least half of their power from coal for the foreseeable future.

I’ve also been lobbying TEP to bury its power lines. I’ve been fielding complaints about overhead power lines for years. They had a plan last year for expanding power lines on the east side, and because of both pressure from me and many of your neighbors, they changed the plan to only have their lines on one side of the corridor it was going down. That was an improvement, but I’d still like to see future lines be buried. If Tucsonans are going to be paying more for power, then it’s not too much to ask for something simple to make our town look a little nicer.

The argument I hear about that is over cost, which brings me around to one of my biggest frustrations. Over the last few years, Arizona’s electrical utilities fought to change the rules on roof top solar and spent millions of dollars to make sure that you didn’t vote for clean energy mandates. Their main argument in both cases was that your electrical bill would go up if they didn’t get what they wanted. Well, regulators and voters gave them what they wanted, but they are still asking for us to pay more.

The hearing for the rate increase in on Monday at 10 am at 400 W Congress, Room 222. You can also submit comments electronically at the Arizona Corporation Commission home page at azcc.gov. Click on the “Cases and Open Meetings” tab.

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I was hoping that the East Broadway project would be done by the end of this month, but we had more rain than expected last month, so things won’t be complete until February.

We are doing well here in Ward 2 with our major traffic corridors. All have had work done since I came into office.

As a city, however, we have a lot of trouble with our roads. Even with the work done on arterial and collector streets here in Ward 2, we still have many neighborhood streets that need work. 2700 lane miles of streets in Tucson are rated as failed or very poor.

My office and the Transportation Department can deal with potholes when they get reported to us, but there is a systemic problem with the way we have been maintaining our streets for the past several decades. In addition, growth hasn’t matched our ability to maintain our streets.

Diana Alarcon has been working as our Transportation Director for a little more than a year and one of the things she’s been working on is changing the way we do street maintenance. She had a sit down with my staff and I on Thursday to talk about it. It would involve $50 million a year spent on pavement preservation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of our streets city-wide. Much of that money would be on local streets, with arterials being handled by the RTA since those roads are of regional importance.

I’m also going to push for Environmental Services, which has money outside of our general fund, to pay a portion of neighborhood street maintenance since their trucks cause wear and tear. I also think we can get between $9 and $12 million from the county out of their new road plan.

This all still needs to get hashed out as we have budget discussions. I’ll keep all of you up to date.