AZ Regulators Back Community Over Power Co. Expansion Bid
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
A group of small-town activists who challenged a power company over its plans to use fossil-fuel generators to expand capacity got a win this week. The Arizona Corporation Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to reject the Salt River Project's plan to add 16 gas-turbine generators to the Coolidge Generating Station in Pinal County.
Residents of the historically Black community of Randolph told regulators that an existing gas power plant near their town already causes dangerously high air-pollution levels, and that adding more gas turbines could only make things worse.
Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the coalition of residents and environmental groups swayed the normally utility-friendly panel.
"They heard that it was a significant environmental injustice," she said. "They saw that SRP had not looked at cleaner, cheaper alternatives to this gas plant, and they voted to deny it."
Randolph was formed after World War II to house Black and Native American cotton workers away from the cities. SRP issued a statement saying it would continue to "evaluate what generation and market options" were available to them to meet Arizona's growing need for electricity.
Bahr said it made no sense to put more gas generators onto the grid with the cost of renewable energy steadily dropping.
"No one should be building big gas plants," she said. "We should not be putting more carbon into the atmosphere, more methane into the atmosphere. We need to turn this around."
Bahr said she hopes the ruling will get the attention of other energy producers.
"It's a pretty strong message," she said. "We need to stop burning coal. We need to stop burning gas. We need to move as rapidly as possible to solar and wind, and energy efficiency."
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