Hundreds of residents gathered in Florence seeking solutions for high power bills

Hundreds of people from an Arizona community packed a meeting to demand answers on why their electric bills suddenly jumped in price.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 10:06 PM MST
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FLORENCE (3TV/CBS 5) - The Florence Library had an entire parking lot and well over 200 people inside Wednesday night for a community meeting over high energy bills from the federally-owned company, San Carlos Irrigation Project (SCIP).

Everyone had the same questions: why are their bills so high, and what can be done?

Before the meeting could get started at 6 p.m., everyone was moved out from a conference room and into the library’s lobby due to overcrowding. A majority of people had their bills in hand.

Brad Miller, an attorney representing some SCIP customers, took the floor and told the crowd he met with the Attorney General for the San Carlos Apache Tribe and SCIP representatives earlier in the day. The SCIP employees planned to attend the meeting virtually but canceled.

Miller said they had a good conversation and learned why SCIP, which is run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), said they had to hike up the rates.

”It’s because the price of natural gas spiked significantly, so San Carlos was forced to deal with that particular price shock, and so they have to go out into the open market and sign contracts, short-term contracts, with any companies that are available that can supply power,” said Miller.

He said that under federal law, SCIP cannot purchase power from local companies.

He said there are two possible short-term solutions.

The first is to petition the BIA to allow SCIP to sign long-term contracts to prevent sudden rate hikes and to be able to buy power locally, such as from solar plants. The second possible fix is to push for congressional action so that SCIP can issue bonds like APS can.

Miller said there is one long-term solution that would require help from Rep. Eli Crane. He said state oversight is needed and can be done if Congress allows SCIP assets to be divested to private companies, such as APS.

The crowd cheered for that solution. However, it could be a long process.

A staff member for Rep. Crane attended the meeting and told Arizona’s Family that the BIA responded to a letter sent to them by Crane. Arizona’s Family obtained that letter Tuesday night.

Crane plans to meet with the BIA next Wednesday.

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