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Chevron recruits retirees to fight Ariz. utility plans for electric vehicles

A Chevron Corp. lobbyist is pushing for the big oil company's retired employees in Arizona to contact state regulators and urge them not to adopt certain policies aimed at accommodating electric vehicles, one retiree recently warned the Arizona Corporation Commission.

In that warning, David Newell of Scottsdale, Ariz., included a copy of an email sent May 9 to Chevron Retirees Association's Phoenix Chapter President Sel Larsen by Chevron's California-based lobbyist, Marian Catedral-King, who said a recent proposal by commission staff would give "undue advantage in favor of electric vehicles."

Newell, who before retiring was manager of development at Chevron Geothermal & Power in Indonesia, said in a May 13 email that the commission accordingly may get numerous anti-EV emails or calls from other Chevron retirees over the coming weeks.

The Arizona Corporation Commission has issued a policy statement to encourage electric utilities to support electric vehicle infrastructure and transportation electrification and has been considering specific utility plans in a docket addressing possible modifications to the commission's energy rules. The commission's staff in turn on May 10 proposed an order to provide guidelines to Pinnacle West Capital Corp. subsidiary Arizona Public Service Co. and other electric utilities on how best to implement the policy.

Seeking to dissuade the commission from adopting the proposal, Catedral-King sent the email to Larsen, asking him to urge association members to contact commissioners. She attached a copy of a boilerplate email that could be sent to the Arizona commissioners, who are elected officials. She also attached a suggested telephone script for making calls and a fact sheet prepared for the AARP that she said, "captures the essence of why this move is being opposed."

The suggested messages say the commission's proposed steps are of little benefit for protecting air quality and will be extraordinarily expensive, especially for low-income seniors in Arizona. Electric cars are too expensive for most people to afford and should not be subsidized for affluent owners through utility-mandated infrastructure programs, Chevron's messaging says.

Catedral-King specifically cited The Western States Petroleum Association as "asking for support to lobby against this initiative by either sending an email or making calls."

That group and the Arizona Petroleum Marketers Association weighed in against the commission's EV efforts in April 17 comments, accusing the agency of overstepping its jurisdiction.

"On a more fundamental level, setting environmental policies is a matter for the state legislature, not the commission," the two associations said. "The commission's function is to set just and reasonable rates."

After receiving Catedral-King's email, Larsen himself sent a letter to Commissioner Boyd Dunn expressing concern that the agency was considering having the EV industry subsidized "on the backs of utility ratepayers."

Despite the efforts of Chevron and the petroleum groups, the lobbying does not appear to have been very effective thus far in getting retirees to protest the EV proceeding. Instead, most of the comments filed to date in the energy rules proceeding by consumers and consumer groups appear to advocate in favor of renewables and energy efficiency.

For its part, the AARP filed comments opposing policies to promote EVs if they involve subsidies from utility ratepayers, but it did so weeks before Catedral-King's email went out.