Arizona Corporation Commission August Open Meeting Highlights
PHOENIX – The Arizona Corporation Commission held its monthly Open Meeting on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, to discuss and vote on various utilities and securities items. Highlights from the meeting are below:
Rulemaking for All-Source Requests for Proposals and Integrated Resource Planning Postponed to 2023
Commissioners voted 3-2 to postpone acting on a rulemaking effort related to All-Source Requests for Proposals and Integrated Resource Planning until 2023. This comes after the item had been pulled from several Open Meeting agendas over the recent months. Commissioner Anna Tovar made the motion to postpone hearing the matter until a new Commission is sworn-in this coming January. Two seats on the Commission are currently up for election. Commissioners Sandra Kennedy and Jim O’Connor supported Commissioner Tovar’s motion, with Chairwoman Lea Márquez Peterson and Commissioner Justin Olson voting against the motion.
Tucson Electric Power Company to Reinvest Excess Funds in Energy Efficiency Programs
The Commission voted to approve an application from Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) that originally sought to refund over-collected funds in its Energy Efficiency Plan (EE) and Demand-Side Management (DSM) surcharge program. Approximately $12.4 million in over-collected DSM funds are available. TEP initially sought to refund the over-collected amount back to customers, which would have resulted in an approximate one-time bill credit of $16.37 refunded to residential customers. An amendment offered by Commissioner Sandra Kennedy, which was further amended by Commissioner Jim O’Connor by way of a friendly amendment, requires that TEP reinvest the over-collected DSM funds back into energy efficiency programs. TEP customers dealing with the impacts of inflation benefit from reduced electric bills as a result of energy efficiency programs.
Trico Electric Cooperative, Inc. Experimental EV Charging Rate Approved
The Commission voted to approve an application filed by Trico Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Trico) in May 2022 to implement an experimental Residential Electric Vehicle (R-EV) tariff pilot program. Trico’s R-EV tariff proposes a Time-of-Use (TOU) rate for electric vehicle customers to encourage charging between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. This is the first EV charging tariff for an electric cooperative in the state.
This rate design provides a discounted volumetric rate of $0.0650 per kilowatt hour (kWh) during the designated charging period, which is a reduction from the current residential rate of $0.117710 per kWh, for up to 400 kWh per month for customers who sign up for the plan. Once the initial 400 kWh are reached, the billing rate goes back to the current residential rate for the remainder of the billing cycle. Trico anticipates this tariff will result in a monthly discount of up to $21.08 per customer. This new tariff will be made available to 1,000 residential Trico customers. However, this tariff will not be made available to the following Trico customers: customers with Trico loans or special billing, customers on Trico’s residential prepaid service tariff, and customers on Trico’s residential time-of-use tariff.
Commission Approves Transmission Line Siting Application from Salt River Project
The Commission voted to approve a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility for Salt River Project (SRP) allowing for the development of Project Huckleberry, to serve a new data center. SRP will construct a new approximately 0.5-mile 230 kV double-circuit transmission line and associated interconnection facilities. The new transmission line will run from the new Prickly Pear 230 kV substation to the certificated Southeast Power Link 230 kV transmission line. The new 230 kV transmission line will be located within an SRP right-of-way on Arizona State Trust Land, while the new Prickly Pear Substation will be located on private land. The approved right-of-way is 100 feet within a 300-foot-wide corridor. The typical transmission structure heights will be in the range of 100 to 185 feet but will not exceed 199 feet.
Commission Sanctions Promoters of Unlawful Income-Stream Investments
The Corporation Commission ordered insurance producer Jeffrey Skidmore of Peoria and his company, Money Never Sleeps, LLC, to pay $624,135 in restitution and a $31,750 administrative penalty for their fraudulent sales of income-stream investments.
The Commission found that Skidmore and Money Never Sleeps, LLC, which also did business as "Union Retirement Solutions" and "Union Estate Planning,” sold income-stream investments offered by non-parties Future Income Payments, LLC and FIP, LLC (collectively, FIP).
The Commission found that FIP solicited military veterans and other retirees entitled to an income stream from pension or disability payments to accept a lump sum in exchange for several years’ worth of the monthly payments. FIP then sold these income streams as investments through salesmen and insurance producers. The Commission found Skidmore has been a licensed Arizona insurance producer since 2004 but he was not registered to offer and sell securities in Arizona.
The Commission found that Skidmore and Money Never Sleeps, LLC sold the investments to retired union workers with relatively limited investment experience. The Commission found that Skidmore and Money Never Sleeps, LLC misrepresented to investors that FIP’s investments were safe and would provide guaranteed retirement income. The investors have not received any repayments since April 2018.
The Commission found that Skidmore and Money Never Sleeps, LLC committed securities fraud by failing to disclose that FIP’s sole owner and president is a convicted felon who had pled guilty to multiple federal crimes and served prison time before starting FIP. The Commission also found that Skidmore and Money Never Sleeps, LLC failed to disclose numerous legal actions by at least seven state regulators against FIP for unlicensed and predatory lending practices against veterans and other retirees who sold their pensions and disability payments.
Additionally, the Commission ordered Jennifer Skidmore, manager of Money Never Sleeps, LLC, to pay $49,938.13 in restitution and a $5,000 administrative penalty.
In settling this matter, the respondents admit for purposes of this proceeding the Commission’s findings and agree to the entry of the Commission consent orders.
Commission Finds Phoenix Insurance Producer and His Company Defrauded Investors
The Corporation Commission ordered Arizona insurance producer Patrick Jon Runninger of Phoenix and his affiliated company, The Financial Group, LLC, to pay $3,606,451 in restitution and $100,000 in administrative penalties for defrauding investors in a real estate investment scheme.
The Commission found that Runninger and The Financial Group LLC offered and sold securities issued by companies controlled by EquiAlt, LLC, to 28 investors. The Corporation Commission found respondent Runninger has been a licensed Arizona insurance producer since 2002, but he and his affiliated company were not registered to offer or sell securities in Arizona.
The Corporation Commission found the respondents hosted focus groups where the debentures issued by EquiAlt, LLC was presented. Also, the Commission found one investor met Runninger when he came to the investor’s house to create a trust for her.
The Commission found that Runninger and The Financial Group LLC told potential investors that their investment money would be used to flip, lease, or purchase distressed or foreclosed real estate.
The Commission found Runninger and his affiliated company failed to disclose to investors that they were getting paid commissions that were derived from a percentage of the principal amount invested, when the subscription agreements given to investors by the respondents stated they did not receive commissions.
Also, the Commission found that Runninger and The Financial Group LLC failed to inform some of the investors that there was a penalty or fee associated with early withdrawals before the investment had matured, and generally misrepresented to investors the risks associated with the EquiAlt debentures.
In February of 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against EquiAlt, LLC and its principals. In its complaint, the SEC alleged that EquiAlt had been conducted as Ponzi scheme since 2011 and raised over $170 million from the sales of EquiAlt debentures to over 1,100 investors nationwide.