BENSON — Costs associated with the implementation and compliance of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would devastate an already impoverished region creating a double whammy on the residents least able to shoulder that expense.
That much and more was relayed to members of the Joint Legislative Review Committee on State Plans Relating to Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Power Plants who were on a fact-finding trip Thursday in Benson.
The hearing and visit enabled members to see and hear of the local and regional impacts that would be derived from the CPP, which aims to cut carbon pollutants in a bold transition toward reliance from coal-fired power generation to natural gas powered facilities.
Assembled in the Board Room of Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives, committee members heard testimony from the heads of AzG&T, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, Southeast Arizona Economic Development Group and the Small Business Development Center.
Patrick Ledger and Creden Huber, CEOs of AzG&T and SSVEC respectively, George Scott, executive director of SEADG and Mark Schmitt, of SBDC, addressed the committee, and all spoke of the crippling effects that would be thrust upon their entities and the region as a result of the CPP.
Each labeled the plan as “government overreach,” employed behind a “one-size- fits-all-approach” without consideration of the tangible variables that exist in rural areas, key among them declining population base and bleak job-prospect outlook. Factor in that much of the region — rural municipalities in particular — remain mired within the grip of The Great Recession only exacerbates the hardship already endured by many rural residents.
Because rural America has been reliant upon coal-fired generation for so long, many plants, including Cochise, lack the infrastructure required for all-out natural gas-powered facilities. And the costs to accomplish that, Ledger explained, is in addition to considerable expense already incurred by the cooperatives with regard to other EPA mandates.
“We have already made substantial investments in reducing emissions and will be investing more than $32 million to meet the EPA’s regional haze requirements by converting one of our two coal units to natural gas. While this will significantly reduce coal as a part of our generation mix and correspond to reduced carbon emissions, it will still not be enough to meet the goals EPA is proposing,” Ledger said. He added that, depending on how the rule is implemented, it could cost co-op members an additional $223 a year.
Committee Co-Chair Griffin, of Hereford and who represents LD 14, said the committee would return at a later date to hear additional testimony, while stressing the importance of getting one’s voice heard.
“Everybody needs to be involved in this issue because it affects our rural areas and our rural economies, both directly and indirectly,” Griffin said.
The committee was formed to ensure the state was prepared to deal with the final rule.
“In the absence of state action, EPA is proposing a federal implementation plan that does not provide the same amount of flexibility a state can utilize in their own state plan,” said Phil Bashaw, Director of Government Relations and Grassroots Advocacy at Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association (GCSECA).
Final rules of the CPP call for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from coal-fired plants by 2030. It’s a more rigorous version of the plan that was initially proposed and one which calls for power companies to cut nearly one-third of carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, with most of that reduction, more than 90 percent, accomplished by 2020.
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- On December 21, 2015