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TEP wants more money, but not for just energy transitions

Guest opinion

TEP wants more money, but not for just energy transitions

I moved to Tucson at the end of September from Brooklyn. My partner is from here, loves Tucson and always wanted to come home. It was a big move for me, and not easy to leave my community and work in New York, but one thing I was looking forward to was escaping the crushing unaffordability of New York City.

Unfortunately, Tucson Electric Power has other plans. TEP has proposed an 11.8% rate hike that will jack up our bills by an average of $16.22 per month, taking the monthly average to a shocking $135.95 per month.

That’s simply unaffordable, especially for folks who haven’t been able to catch a break as they work to pay back utility bills that stacked up during the COVID-19 pandemic. And to add insult to injury, TEP is spending our customer money to keep dirty coal-fired power plants running longer, prolonging harm to communities living nearby.

I’ve learned that TEP has been raising bills for years now. Since 2019, there have been three major monthly bill increases, including a fee to pay for the rising and volatile cost of gas for power plants. The latest proposed increase will be used in part to pay for dirty, expensive fossil fuel infrastructure that residents have demanded be retired and replaced with clean energy. But TEP insists on burning customer dollars on some of the most polluting and expensive coal-fired power plants in the Southwest: the Springerville and Four Corners plants.

While across the nation coal use is swiftly declining, TEP continues to prop up fossil fuels at the expense of customers and the planet, prolonging toxic plants that contribute to severe health impacts including acute bronchitis, asthma attacks, and even heart attacks. These impacts especially affect indigenous communities surrounding coal plants such as those with the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, who have not received support from the utility after previous plant closures on tribal land, leaving them to deal with the aftermath.

In the several months I’ve lived here, I’ve found Tucson to be full of caring, hard-working people. I can’t imagine a single one of them would be happy to know their bills are about to go up again to pay for racist, coal power plants that will exacerbate the climate crisis that threatens our vulnerable desert home.

It doesn’t have to be this way and it’s up to us, TEP customers, to demand a Just Energy Transition, one paid for by wealthy shareholders, not working-class people.

It’s time for TEP customers to reclaim our power and speak up for the clean energy future we deserve. The last opportunity to weigh in on this important issue will be on Wednesday, March 29, at 10 a.m. at the Arizona Corporation Commission’s office at 400 W. Congress, Room 222. Join me in speaking up for fair rates and a just and equitable transition for our communities.

More by Lee Ziesche

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