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Arizona consumers can expect higher electricity costs as a result of new EPA restrictions on three Eastern Arizona power plants. Arizona state environmental officials say the EPA restrictions are too costly and will provide no perceptible environmental benefits.
EPA Rejects Arizona Plan
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) in 2011 submitted a new, comprehensive regional haze plan to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA, however, said the state’s plan did not go far enough to protect air quality.
“As required by the Clean Air Act, ADEQ balanced cost, the energy and non-air quality environmental impacts, existing air pollution controls, the remaining life of the facilities, and the potential visibility improvement of controls,” ADEQ said in a press release. “Based on these factors, ADEQ’s plan called for less stringent air pollution controls than those imposed by EPA’s decision.
“EPA’s action requires the installation of more than $500 million in air pollution controls that will likely result in no perceptible improvements in visibility,” ADEQ added.
Energy analysts say the power plants may have to shut down because of the high costs.
“The Clean Air Act gives each state the responsibility and right to develop a plan to improve visibility within its own borders. It also obligates EPA to determine whether the state’s plan complies with the Act, not to substitute its judgment for the state’s,” said ADEQ Director Henry Darwin in a press statement.
“We are disappointed that EPA would choose to unilaterally decide what’s best for Arizona rather than work with ADEQ as a partner to address its concerns.”
High Compliance Costs
All three power plants face expensive retrofits. The Navajo Generating Facility, at 2,250 megawatts, will likely require over $1 billion in retrofits.
Arizona Electric Power Company estimates its Apache Generating Station, which serves 150,000 customers near Benson, will require $160 million in additional equipment to implement the EPA-mandated nitrogen oxide technology.
The 730 megawatt Coronado facility invested $420 million in sulfur dioxide scrubbers during the 1990s and an additional $45 million in recent years to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. EPA’s new restrictions will require another $200 million in emissions reduction equipment.
Costly Back-to-Nature Standard
Tomczak said EPA’s goal of achieving “natural conditions” will be exceedingly costly and difficult to achieve.
“The EPA program is designed to mitigate all anthropogenic sources of haze and achieve natural conditions by 2064,” ADEQ spokesperson Lisa Tomczak said. “The regional haze decisions that are being finalized are just the first of many state implementation plans that are to be used to achieve the goal.”
Tomczak said Arizona air quality continues to improve, and the new EPA restrictions are unnecessary.
“We have seen improvements in visibility in most Class I areas in Arizona over the course of the last five years and have some expectation that the trend will continue," said Tomczak.