LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The chairman leading an investigation into allegations some utility companies are charging unauthorized fees to go solar in Arkansas has resigned.
Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Ted Thomas confirmed he submitted his letter of resignation to Governor Asa Hutchinson Friday, three days before a Working 4 You investigation into the alleged fees.
Thomas said he resigned because Governor Asa Hutchinson’s term will be up at the end of the year but also because of his growing frustration over solar issues with some utility companies.
“The state’s solar policy is under attack,” Thomas said.
The PSC launched an investigation into several electric co-ops, including Petit Jean Electric Cooperative, after some Arkansans reported the company wanted to charge a $500 application fee and required them purchase a $1 million insurance policy prior to going solar.
The extra fees have not been approved by the PSC, but Petit Jean admits in written PSC filings it is charging the fees. The cooperative insists, though, that it’s following federal guidelines.
Thomas said the state’s solar policy is designed to give individuals alternatives to paying high electric and natural gas prices but calls the ongoing battle frustrating.
“It’s under attack, in my view, because there’s certain electric cooperatives that don’t want the customers to have that option,” he said.
Thomas has served as chairman for the last eight years. His last day is September 30, and Hutchinson issued a statement Tuesday regarding the chairman’s resignation.
“Ted Thomas has been a national leader as chairman of the Public Service Commission,” Hutchinson wrote. “In a time when the energy sector is undergoing change, Ted has continually worked with diligence for the people of Arkansas during a critical time. I appreciate his willingness to serve the people of the Natural State, and I wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Arkansas Advanced Energy Association Executive Director Lauren Waldrip issued the following statement Tuesday:
“For years, Chairman Thomas has worked diligently and served admirably in his capacity at the Public Service Commission to protect both consumers and energy providers alike. Through this coop investigation, Chairman Thomas was making an honorable effort to protect the ratepayers in these particular coop territories. It is those same ratepayers that will foot the legal bill for the egregious actions that I believe played a role in his departure. Coop leadership has invested significant time and resources in continuing to directly insult the establishment that challenges their unethical practices. They have demonstrated an aggressive disregard for the law and an even greater disregard for their members. This situation is genuinely unfortunate for the hard-working Arkansans getting left behind in these territories.”
Working 4 You reached out to Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas for a statement but never heard back.