State Lawmakers on Joint Legislative Review Committee Learn Specifics of Plan and How it Will Hurt Local Economies
(Benson) – State legislators on a fact-finding trip heard that the U.S. Environmental Protection agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) to limit carbon dioxide emissions from power plants will have a serious impact on electric rates for rural Arizona and could affect reliability.
Members of the Joint Legislative Review Committee on State Plans Relating to Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Power Plants heard testimony about the potential impacts of the CPP during a public hearing at the offices of Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives (AzGT) in Benson. (A copy of the public hearing agenda listing the speakers and their topics is available upon request).
The committee was formed as part of a larger effort to ensure the state was prepared to deal with the final rule when it was released. “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).
State Sen. Gail Griffin (R-LD14), co-chair of the committee, said it’s obvious the new rule will have wide-ranging impacts and will affect not only electric rates and reliability, but other sectors of the state’s economy as well, especially in rural areas.
“Everybody needs to be involved in this issue because it affects our rural areas and our rural economies, both directly and indirectly,” Griffin said.
Almost half a million rural electric cooperative member-consumers in Arizona, California, and New Mexico will be affected by the EPA’s final rule that was announced on August 4. The final rule differs substantially from the EPA’s original proposal made in June 2014, but although it relaxes both the interim and final carbon emissions goals and provides an additional two years to move toward compliance of the interim goal, “it’s still going to be difficult to achieve,” said AzGT CEO Patrick Ledger.
This comes on the heels of significant investment by the AzGT to comply with other EPA regulations.
“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.
The CPP final rule requires Arizona’s coal plants to reduce CO2 emissions to an average of 1,173 lbs/MWh between 2022 and 2030. The previous interim goal of 735 lbs/MWh was much stricter and would have been required to start in 2020. The CPP also requires a final limit of 1,031 lbs/MWh by 2030, a reduction of 29 percent.
The cooperatives continue to meet with local officials, key stakeholders, other utilities, lawmakers, and Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) officials to discuss the State Implementation Plan (SIP) process as ADEQ analyzes the final rule and how it will be integrated into the SIP.
About Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives
- Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO), Southwest Transmission Cooperative (SWTC) and Sierra Southwest Cooperative Services collectively make up AzGT.
- AEPCO owns and operates the 605 (combined gross) megawatt Apache Generating Station in Cochise, Arizona, east of Benson.
- SWTC owns and maintains more than 622 miles of transmission lines and 27 substations that transmit wholesale power from the Apache Generating Station to six Member Distribution Cooperatives in southern Arizona, northwestern Arizona, and California.
- Combined, the Distribution Cooperatives that receive AEPCO’s wholesale power serve more than 150,000 meters representing more than 350,000 individual residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial customers.
- The Class A Member Cooperatives that receive wholesale power from AEPCO include:
- Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative in Willcox,
- Duncan Valley Electric Cooperative in Duncan,
- Graham County Electric Cooperative in Pima,
- Trico Electric Cooperative in Marana,
- Mohave Electric Cooperative in Bullhead City,
- And the California member, Anza Electric Cooperative in Anza.
- These member cooperatives own the AzGT and by extension, the G&T Cooperatives are owned by their members, the people at the end of the line who use the power.
- These cooperatives also borrow from RUS, a federal agency.
About Arizona’s electric cooperative member-consumers
The G&Ts and their member cooperatives are not-for-profit utilities that are owned by the people they serve, most of whom live in rural areas.
- These cooperatives depend on fewer consumer-members to share their costs than for-profit utilities.
- On average, one third of these consumer-members live at or below the federal poverty level.
- Cooperative consumer-members spend a higher percentage of their income on electricity than customers of for-profit utilities.
- Electric cooperatives provide much-needed, highly-skilled jobs for their communities.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec. 18, 2015
Contact: Geoff Oldfather, Cooperative Communications and Public Relations Manager
(520) 586-5465, C: (520) 444-3473. firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit our website at www.azgt.coop