EPA versus Arizona on regional haze issue

EPA versus Arizona on regional haze issue

August 15, 2012
Originally published in The Tucson Citizen

From Jonathan Duhamel's article in The Tucson Citizen:

A previous post: EPA war on coal threatens Tucson water supply, examined the consequences of EPA regional haze regulations at the Navajo Generating Station, near Page, Arizona, on our water supply. That station supplies all the electricity needed to pump water from the Colorado River to Tucson via the Central Arizona Project (CAP). It now seems that the EPA is after other coal-fired plants in Arizona.

As a result of the previous post, I received an email from William Yeatman, Assistant Director, Center for Energy and Environment, at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Mr. Yeatman is an expert on the issue of haze and power plant emissions. (See two of his publications on the matter here and here.)

Mr. Yeatman wrote me:

“Regional Haze is an aesthetic regulation pursuant to the Clean Air Act. Its purpose is to improve visibility at federal National Parks and Wilderness Areas. It is the only aesthetic regulation in the Clean Air Act. This point bears repeating: Unlike every other regulation established by the Clean Air Act, Regional Haze has nothing to do with public health.

Another hallmark of the Regional Haze regulation is State primacy. Whereas EPA is the lead decision-maker when it comes to setting public health standards pursuant to the Clean Air Act, the Congress intended for the States to render determinations on Regional Haze.

After countless hours of deliberation by State officials and significant public participation, Arizona submitted a Regional Haze implementation plan to the EPA in February 2011. Despite the Congress’s intention that States take the lead on Regional Haze decision-making, EPA Region 9 in mid-July disapproved Arizona’s submission, and proposed a federal implementation plan in its stead.”

Specifically, in addition to harassing the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona, the EPA found fault with Arizona’s proposed regulations for control of nitrogen oxides (NOx) for the Apache Generating Station near Cochise, Arizona; for Cholla Power Plant near Joseph City, Arizona, and for the Coronado Generating Station near St. Johns, Arizona.

Yeatman writes:

“For all three power plants, Arizona chose NOx controls known as ‘Low Nitrogen Burners.’ EPA, however, wants to impose NOx controls known as ‘Selective Catalytic Reduction.’ The difference in price is significant—EPA’s plan is almost $48 million per year more expensive than the State’s plan [emphasis added]. Of course, these costs would be passed along to Arizona ratepayers in the form of higher utility bills.”

Yeatman modeled the expected results comparing the Arizona proposal versus the EPA proposal. The effect on regional haze is shown in the graphic below. Can you see any difference?

The extra $48 million per year that the EPA requirements would impose does not seem to provide any additional benefit, only addition pain to Arizona ratepayers.

Mr. Yeatman concludes: “Despite the Congress’s intent that the State’s have primacy on Regional Haze, the EPA already has imposed four Regional Haze federal implementation plans on New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Nebraska. EPA’s preferred plans cost almost $400 million more than the States’ plans. Not one of EPA’s imposed Regional Haze plans resulted in a perceptible improvement in visibility.”

It seems that the EPA is a rogue agency that imposes regulations just because they can. Few of their regulations in this matter have any scientific basis and the EPA seems to ignore economics.

See also:

EPA war on coal threatens Tucson water supply

EPA fuel standards costly and ineffective

EPA, ethanol, and catch 22

EPA may change Dioxane standards in Tucson water

EPA Admits CO2 Regulation Ineffective

Electricity supply endangered by EPA regulations

Clean Coal: Boon or Boondoggle?