The Environmental Protection Agency came to town this week to hold a public hearing on the agency’s proposal to institute a Federal Implementation Plan, or FIP, for three coal-fired electric generating facilities in Arizona. In case you were wondering, a FIP is a government term for telling states and local communities what to do, when collaboration is what’s called for.
Tuesday night’s hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix was just the latest event in the long history of an amendment to the Clean Air Act dating back to 1977. It was that year that Congress adopted a National Visibility Goal to prevent any future, and remedy any existing, man-made issues that would negatively affect visibility in our U.S. national parks and wilderness areas.
To that end, EPA established a Regional Haze Rule (RHR) that would help reach “natural” visibility by 2064. This alone presents its own problems. As columnist George Will wondered in a recent column, “’Natural’ meaning what? Before humanity?”
The FIP would cause Arizona’s utilities to install expensive technology on generating stations to further reduce emissions. But as The Arizona Republic editorialized last month, “Owners of the electric plants haven’t been loafing.” APS and SRP have each already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into generating stations to significantly reduce emissions.
I want to share with you excerpts of testimony that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s director of government relations, Gretchen Conger, presented at Tuesday night’s hearing. Her testimony appears in italics with my own commentary following.
This FIP is inconsistent with the 2064 goal date, seemingly attempting to achieve 2064 results immediately.
EPA and the states are supposed to be on glide path to 2064, making incremental improvements in visibility. This FIP seemingly disregards that 2064 goal date, calling for expensive technology installments right away.
The FIP is also inconsistent with the intended spirit of partnership with the states and their SIPs. This is a federal solution to a challenge that requires good faith partnership and dialogue with state partners like the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. If there are shortcomings in Arizona’s SIP, let’s work together to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
Gov. Jan Brewer, as you can imagine, had pointed comments for EPA over the FIP. She nailed it when she said, “It is clear the states should be given the lead role in the regional haze process, as states are unquestionably the best suited to make important determinations regarding the resources within state boundaries.”
The EPA, as a result of this overreach, is quickly scuttling any goodwill the agency might have built up that would encourage cooperation between the federal government and the state over the issue of regional haze.
Access to a reliable and affordable electricity supply is not an option in Arizona’s ability to attract and retain good jobs; it is an essential service.
No state wants the reputation of having an expensive and unreliable power supply. We are concerned that Arizona is on the brink of being slapped with such a reputation should the FIP go forward. The result will be job losses that will stall or reverse Arizona’s nascent economic recovery.
The costs associated with retrofitting the generating stations will be passed on to Arizona businesses and ratepayers and will hamstring economic development efforts. Businesses want to establish and increase operations in states with affordable energy and predictable rates. The EPA is injecting uncertainty into our energy market, and it’s our economy that will pay the price.
The equipment installations called for by the FIP will not result in any perceptible visibility improvements in nearby national parks. The expense associated with FIP implementation, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, cannot be justified in light of the lack of any identifiable benefit.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the FIP does not seek to mitigate health risks to Arizonans or visitors to our national parks. Regional haze is not a health issue. In fact, the haze control technology called for by the FIP is actually more stringent than anything called for in order to improve air quality for health reasons.
The EPA might be able to engender support from the far edges of the environmental movement, but without making the case that the FIP will improve visibility, and since haze has nothing to do with health, the feds have rightfully earned the criticism they’ve received from not only the governor, but state legislators including Senate President Steve Pierce, who said the FIP is, “not just unfair, it’s outrageous. It reflects a staggering disregard for the state’s economy and a disturbing willingness to sacrifice economic growth in favor of a reckless environmental agenda.”
Public hearings on this issue are scheduled for Holbrook and Benson later this month. I urge you to make your voice heard either at the hearings or via the public comment process. Let the EPA know that their FIP is the wrong move at the wrong time.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry