Why Arizona will Pay More to Save the Planet
Our View: How fair is this? The EPA wants Arizona to make bigger sacrifices to cut carbon emissions than states that pollute more.
Editorial board, The Republic | azcentral.com 10:15 p.m. MST October 25, 2014
This nation needs to roll back the amount of carbon dioxide it pumps into the atmosphere.
It should do so in a thoughtful, rational way that spreads the pain as fairly as possible.
Unfortunately, that's not the Environmental Protection Agency's approach, especially in Arizona. The EPA's ham-handed dictates demand greater sacrifices from the Grand Canyon State than from states that use more coal and emit more carbon dioxide.
The state's utilities are pushing back. They should be heard.
This summer, the EPA proposed that Arizona cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030. But it would have to achieve 90 percent of that reduction in just six years, the most stringent goal of any state in the nation, by utility estimates.
Considering the staggering amount of energy-producing resources at issue — literally billions of dollars in assets — that timetable is a virtual blink of an eye. Unsurprisingly, the state's energy producers argue the EPA timetable is unreasonable. "Impossible," they say.
Effectively, the EPA is re-ordering the state's power generation. Compliance would necessitate new gas-fired power plants and hundreds of miles of new transmission lines and gas pipelines. It will impact every energy user in the state.
Coal provides 40 percent of Arizona's consumer electricity, exceeding nuclear and gas-fired energy. Halving carbon emissions at coal-fired facilities would require technology that does not yet exist, at a cost likely to make such an overhaul prohibitively expensive.
Even if the costs were manageable, Arizona power producers would be fighting an uphill battle. The EPA rules assume coal-fired power generation in Arizona should cease by 2020.
As a result, Salt River Project's new Springerville Generating Station would be shut down. So would the Coronado Generating Station, where SRP ratepayers spent $500 million in 2009 to add cleaner-burning upgrades. Recent pollution-fighting upgrades at Arizona Public Service's Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City would go for naught. Hundreds of millions of dollars in ratepayer investments would go fallow.
Arizona's target of a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions is far higher than the EPA's national target of 30 percent for a remarkably in-egalitarian reason: In the view of the EPA, Arizona can reduce emissions that much. Other states can't.
Arizona produces energy through a broad variety of sources, including a fast-growing renewable-energy sector and comparatively new natural-gas plants. States like West Virginia, Kentucky, North Dakota and others highly reliant on coal-produced energy have far lower emissions thresholds to meet.
Arizona's energy ratepayers are about to be punished financially for their foresight. This becomes a powerful incentive to other states not to venture into renewable or lower-carbon energy.