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State lawmakers speak out against new EPA regulations

Senate President Steve Pierce joined a coalition of policymakers, business and community leaders protesting new regulations being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that have the potential to cost Arizona residents hundreds of millions of dollars in higher electricity costs.

The Senate President’s comments came at a July 31 public hearing conducted by the EPA to solicit feedback on the agency’s decision to reject Arizona’s federally-mandated plan to reduce regional haze (a visibility, not health issue) in favor of a new regulations requiring Arizona utilities to install exorbitantly expensive technology at three power plants that provide electricity to millions of Arizona residents.

If implemented, the regulations would require Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project (SRP), and the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade their facilities with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology, which makes no perceptible improvement in visibility compared to measures already required under Arizona’s plan.

While the EPA has publicly claimed that its plan is designed to improve visibility, many Arizona leaders believe that the driving force behind the regulations is an EPA effort to force utilities to abandon the use of coal as a clean, inexpensive, and reliable source of energy in favor of other “green” sources of energy that have proven to be less reliable and much more expensive.

The end result of such a move, Pierce argued, would be higher electricity costs and, consequently, higher prices for goods and services.

“What we’re really talking about is taking hundreds of millions of dollars from Arizona residents and employers to pay for new technology that makes no significant improvement in air quality,” Pierce declared. “That’s not just unfair, it’s outrageous. It reflects a staggering disregard for the state’s economy and a disturbing willingness to sacrifice economic growth in favor of a reckless environmental agenda. As Senate President, I call upon the EPA to abandon its plan and work with the state to find a logical and common sense solution.”

President Pierce’s comments were echoed by statements from Senator John Nelson (R-Phoenix), an engineer and chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), whose district includes the Apache Generating Station, owned by AEPCO.

Nelson, a former council member and interim mayor of the City of Phoenix lambasted the EPA’s plan. “I have to tell you in all candor that in my nearly 3 decades of public service, I have never seen something as arbitrary, unfair, and illogical as this plan and its demand that Arizona utilities install SCR technology on their plants,” Nelson said.

Senator Griffin agreed. “Let’s be very clear—these regulations have nothing to do with public health and everything to do with the Obama Administration’s radical push to eliminate coal as a source of cheap electrical power.”

In addition to state lawmakers, prominent community and business leaders from throughout the state spoke out against the regulations, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the National Federation of Independent Business. Together with President Pierce, these leaders expressed alarm that the high cost of installing SCR technology may force Arizona utilities to:

  • Dramatically increase utility rates, putting Arizona at a competitive disadvantage in its effort to attract new employers.

  • Shutter one or more units at their generating facilities, leading to job losses and a reduction in property tax revenue for local schools and public safety.

  • Purchase electricity on the open market at much higher cost to Arizona consumers

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President and CEO Glenn Hamer applauded President Pierce’s testimony. “We appreciate the willingness of President Pierce, Senator Nelson, and Senator Griffin to stand with Arizona job creators against unreasonable, unwarranted, and unnecessary environmental regulations that threaten our economic recovery. Arizona needs strong leaders like President Pierce who have the courage to protect Arizona employers and working families from overzealous federal regulators.”

Pierce concluded by urging the EPA to work with the state on a solution that achieves the goal of reducing regional haze without sacrificing the state’s economy.

“Failure to do so would send a clear message that the Obama Administration is more concerned about eliminating coal than it is about creating jobs and improving our economy.”

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