Solar Energy

APS Didn't Mean to Lie to New Times on Funding of Anti-Solar Ads, Spokesman Says

Back in July, Arizona Public Service denied funding an ad campaign that attacked a coalition of rooftop-solar installers battling the utility for ratepayers' money.

But now the company's confessing that it is, in fact, funding the campaign.

Jim McDonald, APS spokesman, tells us he "had no intention of telling a lie to anybody" when he told the lie.

Intentions aside, just compare the two passages from our July article and one that appeared yesterday in the Arizona Republic:

See also: An Epic Battle Between Solar Firms and Power Utilities Could Leave One Side Unplugged

From: APS Denies Funding Solar-Installer Attack Ad That It Likes

APS spokesman McDonald says the utility did not pay for the ad or help produce it in any way; nor does APS donate to 60 Plus.

APS isn't interested in politicizing the issue as Rose has, McDonald says.

"But going forward, we would certainly support organizations that share our position on important customer issues," he says.

McDonald could not confirm, however, whether Noble considered the ad -- if it is indeed Noble's handiwork -- as part of his duties as APS/Pinnacle West consultant and lobbyist. McDonald says he hasn't talked to Noble about it.

Now read this excerpt from yesterday's Repub story, APS, solar companies clash over credits to customers

[John Hatfield, APS vice president of communications] said APS is not using ratepayer funds to finance its political campaign. Instead, he said the utility is using profits that otherwise would go to stockholders. APS' parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., is publicly traded.

APS officials declined to say how much they are spending on 60 Plus and Prosper, but costs of the television advertisements tied to the net-metering issue run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We are in a political battle," APS spokesman Jim McDonald said. "We didn't ask for it. But we are not going to lie down and get our heads kicked in. We are just not. We are obligated to fight. It is irresponsible to our customers not to fight back."

There's a lot of money at stake in this battle, as we pointed out in our July 11 feature article on the fight between rooftop solar companies and utilities.

Fighting fair, evidently, is not an option.

So how did it happen that a regulated utility put out false propaganda in this war?

McDonald didn't just make up his answers to our specific questions back in July about whether APS was funding the 60 Plus campaign. He says someone told him what he told us, that APS did not pay for any of the 60 Plus ads or donate anything to 60 Plus. He says he doesn't remember who told him that. But it wasn't Hatfield, he adds.

McDonald says he believes the bad info came to him from someone who talked about the funding with Sean Noble, the Republican political operative hired by APS who acted as go-between for APS and 60 Plus.

"I don't think anybody at APS intended to tell me a lie," he says.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.