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November 06, 2013

EPA’s war on coal could destroy Arizona’s energy future

Congressmen: Power-plant plans costly, without much environmental benefit

Our Turn
Arizona Republic

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced alarming new plans to set carbon standards for existing power plants as the agency simultaneously pursues a reckless agenda of taking reliable, affordable power offline in Arizona and across the country. 

These plans are the Obama Administration’s new strategy to impose a "cap and trade" agenda on coal-fired energy production, even though a bipartisan majority in Congress rejected those policies more than four years ago.

Such regulations threaten disastrous consequences for Arizona’s energy future. The coal plants, known for reliable and affordable energy, are being compelled to upgrade emission controls to a level not conducive to commercial trade and resulting in negligible environmental benefit, thus resulting in plant closures. 

As the EPA pursues its aggressive and ill-conceived regulatory agenda,  the next two years could be the most crucial time to stop this attack on our nation’s most abundant, affordable and reliable energy resource — coal.

We’ve seen it right here in Arizona. 

While many don’t consider Arizona to be a “coal state,” Arizona generates 40 percent of its electricity from coal and produces more than 8,000 tons of coal a year. Coal-fueled generation and production is an economic engine for Arizona and tribal economies like the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe.

Overly stringent carbon standards for existing power plants will have serious consequences for Arizona and add to a long list of detrimental EPA rulemakings already in progress. Currently, EPA has targeted several coal-fired plants in Arizona with regional haze proposals, ignoring state implementation efforts and threatening to increase water and energy rates for Arizonans across the state. 

The EPA’s recently proposed New Source Performance Standards focuses on the construction of new power plants and new requirements for commercially unproven technology, such as Carbon Capture and Storage. Collectively, these regulations are setting us down a path of overreliance on fossil fuel, natural gas, or intermittent fuel sources like renewables. This is a far cry from the “all of the above” approach to energy President Obama claims to support. 

Arizona has witnessed enormous growth over the past few decades. Our two major metropolitan areas — Phoenix and Tucson — regularly lead the nation in growth, and our economy and business communities have thrived with access to affordable energy and water.

In order to meet the energy needs of a growing population and robust economic development, Arizona has depended on — and will continue to depend on — affordable electricity from coal.

Every part of our economy would be impacted if coal were taken offline. And business owners would be faced with unpredictable and likely skyrocketing electricity bills, resulting in more conservative hiring practices and restrained expansion and growth.

Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, the EPA has not even feigned interest in hearing Arizonans’ or other “coal state” constituencies’ opinions on its new rules, nor has the agency sought to learn how its regulations will impact those who stand to lose the most. In fact, the EPA recently excluded Arizona from a series of “listening sessions” it conducted across the country. Instead, the EPA visited places like San Francisco and New York City, which derive virtually none of their electricity from coal.   

As pending rules affecting the Navajo Generating Station, Coronado Generating Station, Cholla Power Plant and Apache Generating Station has garnered public attention, this has become a crucial issue to every Arizonan. The agency should visit our state to hear firsthand from stakeholders and communities, especially our vulnerable tribal communities. 

We recently sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, urging the administration to reconsider listening sessions in our state and other areas across the country that will be directly affected by these overly burdensome regulations.

The EPA’s regulations will bring untold consequences to our doorsteps here in Arizona. There is still time to take action and make your voice heard. File a comment with the EPA at and tell the agency how its rules will affect those of us who rely on coal-fueled power.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, Matt Salmon and David Schweikert are Republicans serving Arizona’s Fourth, Eighth, Fifth and Sixth districts, respectively.

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