Written by Mallory Kvek
As a member of the Solar Team 2020, Shea Stanfield is running with Bill Mundell and Anna Tovar to fill the three available seats in the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). Once elected, they will join current Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, making a Democrat super majority in the Commission.
What is the Arizona Corporation Commission?
Often referred to as the “fourth branch of government”, the ACC is the Public Utilities Commission of the State of Arizona, as established in Article 15 in Arizona’s Constitution. The ACC is one of only 14 states with elected commissioners, the other 37 states have government appointed commissioners. As having the responsibility of giving final decisions on granting/denying rate adjustments for utilities, enforcing safety and public service requirements, and approving security matters, the ACC is an incredibly important part of our State government. The writers of our Constitution felt that the power of appointing these Commissioners should lie with the voters, not the governors. They feared the governors would choose Commissioners that were industry friendly and make judgments that benefited the corporations, not the Arizonan residents.
Despite being elected into office by voters, some Commissioners have been influenced to pass decisions that benefit the energy corporation monopolies and utility companies. These decisions are often on issues that hurt Arizona communities, such as higher rates and dirty energy operations located in the backyards of lower income and underserved communities. They have been swayed by bribes, dark money contributions, and behind the scenes negotiations.
In recent years, a handful of Commissioners have come under fire for allegedly taking bribes and accepting dark money for their campaigns. Former Commissioner Gary Pierce went on trial in 2018 on accusations he took bribes to help the owner of Johnson Utilities, though the trail was declared a mistrial due to a hung jury. Both Tom Forese and Doug Little received dark money contributions to their campaigns in 2014 from an anonymous donor, who many believed at the time was APS. Both former Commissioners fought fellow Republican Commissioner Bob Burns’ efforts to determine if APS and it’s parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, had a hand in the 2014 election.
After years of rumors, that anonymous donor has finally come clean. APS admitted in 2019 that they spent 10.7 million on the 2014 election of Forese and Little by giving the funds to political action committees, who then in turn gave the money to the campaigns. After being elected, the two men voted for a rate increase that put an extra 95 million into APS’ pocket, and came to ratepayers as a higher rate than promised.
Over the last several years, APS has continued bringing cases to the ACC to raise their rates even higher. The ACC has held public comment hearings to allow residents to give their thoughts on the rate increase proposal. The ACC has not done a good job of letting the public know about these opportunities, much to the dismay of Commissioner Sandra Kennedy. In July, one hearing was cancelled due to lack of attendance. Not a single resident attended. Why? Because they did not know about it. Currently, the commission requires only the utility company to promote these events, not the commission. The hearing wasn’t even featured on the AZCC.gov website. That is why we need the Solar Team in the commission to join Sandra Kelly, to be more transparent and fight for the ratepayers.
At best, this leads to a misunderstanding that the Commission is not operating in the best interest of the ratepayer.-Sandra Kennedy
In 2018, the Arizona Corporation Commission adopted it’s Code of Ethics. While this is a good start, as the Commission had nothing like this in place at all, it is lacking two key areas; avoiding conflicts of interest, and campaign contributions. The Code of Ethics only prevents Commissioners from accepting meals/gifts/freebies from parties that have a matter directly before the panel. At all other times, companies the ACC regulates can provide Commissioners with free meals, gifts, trips, and tickets to events in the industry, among other things. The pocket is endless for these companies with what they can gift, so long as the Commissioner is not directly overseeing a case brought against that company.
As for campaign contributions, the code requires commissioners to disclose donations by anyone who has a matter scheduled to be heard, to note it in the case docket, and to orally state it at the start of the proceeding. The code makes a point about permitting anyone who is “party to the proceeding” to request recusal, in which the recusal is at the discretion of the Commissioner making that declaration. That is, the final say rests with the individual with the potential conflict. The ethical standard in essence starts and stops at disclosure.
This is one of the reasons why the Solar Team 2020 will work to bring transparency, integrity, and accountability back to the Arizona Corporation Commission. The team is focusing on three platforms: restoring trust in the ACC, protecting ratepayers, and build a sustainable future for Arizona by increasing our renewable energy requirements and solar energy.
Who is Shea Stanfield?
Shea T. Stanfield moved with her family to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area of Arizona in the summer of 1957, due to her father’s job that was transferred with the Center of Disease Control (CDC). He was assigned in Arizona as a Federal Health employee, specifically as an Epidemic Investigator and worked his way up to a department head. Shea’s mother had her degree in teaching and became a community activist in their east Phoenix neighborhood of Arcadia. Growing up a child of an Epidemic Investigator and a community activist, Shea quickly learned that life and career centered on helping others and contributing to the community.
She holds a B.A. and M.Ed. in Arts and Education from Arizona State University, as well as certificates from the Association of Montessori International and the William Glasser Institute in Reality Therapy. Shea is now retired from a 40-year career with the Scottsdale Unified School District. Shea was certified in k-12 education, including special education, English as a Second Language education, and school counseling.
During her career she was active in the local teacher’s union as Vice President of the Scottsdale Education Association and Building Representative. She also served on numerous education boards and committees at the State and district level in curriculum development.
Over the years Shea has served her community as a member of the Save the McDowell Mountains movement in Scottsdale, Friends of Spur Cross in Cave Creek for the preservation of the Spur Cross Conservation Area, as a board member of the Black Mountain Conservancy, a member of the Cave Creek Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Adjustment, and as a two term Town Council Member.
Shea is the mother of two grown sons, Benjamin and Asher, both with education backgrounds pursuing careers in the development of sustainable lifestyle products. While growing up, during the summers the family would volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service on the White River National Forest in Colorado.
Shea’s upbringing, leadership, and lifelong career as a teacher and volunteer has lead her to run for Arizona Corporation Commissioner.
What sets me apart is I am not a career politician, I am a mom, teacher, community member, and a working individual, much like the majority of Arizona residents. The hardworking individuals and families of this State deserve representation with their best interest in mind. My goal is not for personal profit or gain, or work for corporate money interests. We, ordinary people, have extraordinary power in our ability to nominate, support, and elect individuals to office who have the community’s best interest in mind.-Shea Stanfield
How a vote for Shea will impact the future of Arizona; an interview with Shea and a member of our team:
If elected, how will you work to restore Arizonan’s trust in the Arizona Corporation Commission that many believe was broken, due to previous member’s self dealing and behind the scenes negotiations?
My philosophy is, if you elect people who are ethical you won’t have a problem. The definition is Commissioners do not take meetings out of the office with those who have cases before them. They don’t accept tickets, vacations, gifts, favors, meals, real estate, homes, condos, etc. neither do their immediate and extended families.
Some states have already passed their renewable energy goal for 2020. California did that two years ago, and Nevada has already hit their 2025 goal. Arizona is currently sitting at only 13% renewable energy, with the current requirement to be at 15% by 2025, as noted in the Renewable Energy Standard Tariff (REST) adopted in 2006 and written by fellow Solar Team 2020 member, Bill Mundell. If elected, how will you work to ensure Arizona meets the requirement of 15% renewable energy in 2025?
If I alone am elected, we won’t get it done because there will not be a Democratic majority on the Commission. But if all three of the Solar Team 2020, Bill Mundell, Anna Tovar, and me, Shea Stanfield get elected we will have a super majority with Sandra Kennedy to update the REST Rules, make them requirements (they are not now) and set required goals to meet every year until the requirements are met.
There are so many factors in this pandemic that directly affect the average Arizonan; working from home, balancing a full-time job while home schooling children, or losing your employment due to company shut downs and lay-offs, just to name a few. As an Arizona Corporation Commissioner, how will you support those effected by the current Covid-19 pandemic?
The ACC is not a law-making body, nor are we the mayors of the cities/towns, or the Governor. But having said that we can create policy around the areas that we do have jurisdiction over, which includes business, non-municipal utilities, private water companies, safety of transportation, and railroads and security markets. Each individual on our team is tuned into the needs of families and those who need assistance.
You’ve identified protecting ratepayers as an important issue in your platform. What does that protection mean to you, and how will Arizonans see that protection as a result of you being elected as a Commissioner?
Again, the ACC is a “team sport” you MUST have 3-4 seats on the commission at ALL times, for the foreseeable future, to put policies in place to protect consumers and to regulate utilities. The reason being, one person can’t get policy through alone, and the voters must be committed to keep a Democratic majority for a long, long, time. Because, as history has proven, good policies may be put into place, i.e. the REST Rules of 2006 that were a decent start, but they have since been diluted and eroded by commissions the last number of years.
How should the Commission work with other agencies or branches (legislature, administration, and courts) to address Arizona’s water needs?
The ACC has no choice, they are not the first line of action in water rights or allocation. The Federal government, State government, and various water agencies have jurisdiction. The ACC does have quite a bit of say over small, private, water companies and can directly protect consumers.
If elected, what is your #1 priority to address? What motivates you to run to office?
To address the renewable energy standards. My motivation is I’m sick of waiting around for someone else to do it. If you want change you MUST vet people with environmental and environmental protection philosophy, get them on the ballot, finance their campaigns, and get them elected. No amount of standing around with signs, complaining or writing letters is going to get the change we need NOW.
Who has influenced you the most in your life, and why?
Strong women influenced my life beginning with my mother who was well-educated both in English Literature, Writing, and Theology. She was always teaching, organizing others in the neighborhood, or helping someone out. Because of her, I was introduced to classic literature and history at a very young age, introducing me to Eleanor Roosevelt, Madam Curie, Harriet Beecher Stow, and Rachel Carson, etc. My dad was a huge influence in his work with the Center of Disease Control involving minority populations from Harlem, Mississippi agricultural workers, to our First Nations in Arizona. Health, Education, and Community Service was definitely a theme in my upbringing.
What would you like to be known for in the history books?
I did the best I could, with the talents I had, to help others to find their success.
What is your vision for Arizona?
I would hope that Arizona would become the solar capital of the world, both in production and installation of systems. A place where everyone has health care, a safe place to live, food for their families and support for their personal needs. A place everyone has a fair chance to be successful.