California billionaire and progressive political activist Tom Steyer is jumping back in to energy issues in Arizona, despite progressives asking him to stay away.
This newest development comes after Arizona voters rejected Proposition 127, a Steyer-backed initiative to dramatically accelerate the state's renewable portfolio, by a 2-to-1 margin last November. The state's largest utility provider, Arizona Public Service (APS), campaigned heavily against the proposed constitutional amendment.
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Currently, Steyer is joining a fight that has been underway for more than a year in which some have been asking to have an APS rate increase from 2017 overturned by the state's corporation commission, the regulatory body that has oversight of utilities.
However, local media and political figures, including some on the left, were swift in their criticism of Steyer's move.
Local NBC political reporter Brahm Resnik tweeted out a story by the Arizona Republic on Steyer's involvement saying, "Alternate headline: Billionaire w political tin ear bigfoots Arizona resident who was doing just fine fighting APS. @TomSteyer's last-minute involvement can't help the cause."
That prompted one of the leaders of the fight to tweet back, "EXACTLY. Thank you, @brahmresnik."
Another local politico with ties to a prominent progressive organization in the state tweeted, "Not sure who's giving @TomSteyer political/PR advice, but he should fire them. Immediately. This was tone-deaf and runs the risk of upending everything @ChampPR did to prove APS rate hikes were both unjust and unreasonable."
Emailed requests for comment to three different Steyer entities were not returned.
The Capital Times estimated that Steyer "burned through $28 million in a pair of losing political battles in Arizona last year."
APS, meanwhile, has taken issue with Steyer's new theme of educating voters about the utility's influence.
"It seems very hypocritical that a person who doesn't even live in our state … is accusing a company that has done business for more than a century in Arizona of having undue influence when we are working to craft responsible energy policy," APS spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino is quoted as saying in the Arizona Capitol Times.
The paper said that Trevino added that the latest round of activity by Steyer could be "positioning for the 2020 election."
The Capitol Times reported that a spokeswoman for Steyer would not disclose how much he intended to spend on the latest Arizona effort.
Beyond the state politics, Steyer's actions seem to run counter to a pledge he made this January when he decided to forego a campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president.
"Now, the impeachment question has reached an inflection point," he said at the time from Des Moines, Iowa. "Therefore, I will be dedicating 100 percent of my time, effort, and resources to one cause: working for Mr. Trump's impeachment and removal from office."
Steyer has been best known in recent years for his television campaign to build grassroots momentum for impeaching the president, and using that to put pressure on members of the House. When announcing from Iowa he was not forming a presidential campaign, he also said he would be putting at least $40 million into his impeachment efforts.