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Democratic Socialists of America push to replace TEP with publicly-owned company

“It would exist just to serve the people, not make a profit."
Tucson Democratic Socialists of America
Posted at 2:59 AM, May 21, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Marching and chanting from Tucson City Hall to TEP’s downtown building, Lee Ziesche led a group protesting for an electric company they’re hoping doesn’t exist solely to make a profit.

She’s a part of the Tucson Democratic Socialists of America. They're hope right now: that TEP is replaced with a publicly owned utility company, in the same vein as Tucson Water.

Ward 3 Councilman Kevin Dahl said the City is bringing in an outside firm to look at how a public utility company would work.

“If they want Tucson to be a place where people can live in the future, they need to take this feasibility study very seriously,” Ziesche said.

TEP spokesman Joe Salkowski said the company welcomes the study.

“We’re pretty comfortable. We know that our customers are very satisfied. We know that our reliability is very strong,” Salkowski said.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero gave KGUN9 this statement regarding the study.

“The City of Tucson is moving fast and furiously investing $80M into the implementation of our Climate Action Plan, Tucson Resilient Together, to protect Tucsonans from the impacts of climate change and reach carbon neutrality by 2030. The Energy Sourcing Study is one of the steps identified in the plan.”
Tucson Mayor Regina Romero

However, Ziesche feels like TEP is charging customers too much and not doing enough to help people save on bills.

“Bills were very very high all summer and people were clearly struggling, and how did TEP respond? They then raised rates again,” she said.

TEP recently announced that they are bringing down rates starting June 1 and already have payment assistance and extension programs.

“Our rates are actually lower on an inflation-adjusted basis than they were 25 years ago,” Salkowski said.

Ward 2 Councilman Paul Cunningham said he would prefer a publicly owned utility company.

“A public utility is more likely to have lower rates. I also think a public utility is more likely to have better service delivery on some reasons,” Cunningham said.

However, he feels like technology needs to advance more to get Tucson there and said right now the cost isn’t realistic for the City to build their own grid or buy TEP’s.

Dahl agreed buying TEP’s infrastructure would likely be too expensive. The City said they’ve never officially talked about establishing a public utility company.

However, the people at the rally said they’re hoping TEP can spark change.

“You should sell us your grid at a fair price and leave it to the people,” Ziesche said.

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Andrew Christiansen is a reporter for KGUN 9. Before joining the team, Andrew reported in Corpus Christi, Texas for KRIS6 News, Action 10 News and guest reported in Spanish for Telemundo Corpus Christi. Share your story ideas with Andrew by emailing andrew.christiansen@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.