Rural Arizona is at a tipping point as the EPA finalizes its Clean Power Plan that could dramatically increase the costs for power and water used by farmers, ranchers and residents to a level that is simply unsustainable.
Before rural Arizonans came together to form consumer-owned electric cooperatives in the 1930s, water was manually pumped to fields and farmers’ clothes were washed by hand. Cooperatives brought the rural areas into the modern age.
In the 1970s we came together again, adding stability to energy prices by building the Apache Generating Station near Benson.
During that time, the federal government feared a shortage of natural gas resources and banned its use for electricity generation through the Fuel Use Act, so the only viable generation option was coal. The power plant’s cost was financed over the long run, making the power affordable through a source that would be available for decades to come.
The Fuel Use Act was determined to be a failed experiment and was repealed 10 years later.
Now the federal government, through the EPA, is imposing a new set of regulations that calls for the transition back to the fuel it banned only 40 years ago. Rural Arizona is left holding the bag for the federal government’s short-term thinking because the plan includes no compensation for the long-term investment structured to meet the government’s requirements.
Already bearing a higher cost per capita than urban Arizona, we could now be forced to pay for an alternative while the debt on the existing plant continues to be serviced.
Furthermore, the EPA’s proposal fails rural Arizona by assuming we can fundamentally shift our energy portfolio to natural gas in a relatively short amount of time without disrupting reliability to rural customers.
No one cares for the environment and climate more than the rural cooperative members who depend upon these very things for their livelihood. Always looking for better options, many rural communities were early adopters of solar and wind alternatives and have made recent investments in pollution reduction technology. However, the EPA proposal gives no credit for these innovations.
As the EPA finalizes the regulations this summer, it is critical the agency learn from the mistakes of the past and take the real short-term and long-term impacts into account. Rural Arizona needs leadership now to ensure that the plan is modified, or coal won’t be the only thing that goes missing from Arizona’s economy.
Joe Kay of Lakeside is president of the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association.
See the article here.
- On April 3, 2015