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Sierra Club ‘Clearing the Haze’ comments undermine its credibility

This Sept. 4, 2011 file photo shows the main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station, as seen from Lake Powell in Page, Ariz. The federal government is proposing new limits for pollution from the coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation that it says will improve visibility at places like the Grand Canyon, but it could come with a price tag of more than $1 billion, according to the plant's owners. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

This Sept. 4, 2011 file photo shows the main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station, as seen from Lake Powell in Page, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

We are disappointed that the Sierra Club chose to misrepresent the facts in the current debate over regional haze controls at Apache Generating Station in southeastern Arizona.

We are referring to comments by Sandy Bahr, director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, as reported in the Feb. 15 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times, “Clearing the Haze,” by reporter Ben Giles.

The article details the Feb. 11 hearing before the joint meeting of the Senate Government and Environment and House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources committees, at which Arizona’s G&T Cooperatives CEO Patrick Ledger testified to the severe negative economic impacts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) final ruling for regional haze controls would have on Apache Generating Station — costing rural customers eight times as much as the rest of the state’s electric ratepayers, or even possibly forcing the eventual closure of Apache Generating Station’s coal facilities.

In a subsequent meeting of the Senate Government and Environment Committee regarding SCR1012, Bahr asserted that if this were true, Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (AEPCO), the not-for-profit rural electric utility that owns the Apache Generating Station, would have submitted supporting documentation to the EPA prior to its final ruling on Nov. 15, 2012, but failed to do so. She also accused AEPCO of using the threat of closure as a “scare tactic.”

In fact, prior to the final EPA ruling, AEPCO submitted thousands of pages of financial documents and spent thousands of man-hours documenting the unique financial and technical challenges AEPCO faces. AEPCO’s materials are available at the federal government’s website — www.regulations.gov — under docket EPA-R09-OAR-2012-0021.

We believe that EPA’s financial consultants misinterpreted much of the data we submitted. We are now taking steps to review this material with the agency to make sure they understand that we are different — we are much smaller than the state’s other utilities, we are not-for-profit cooperatives, and we serve rural people who are disproportionally poorer than the rest of the state. That means we are not motivated by profit, but rather by our desire to ensure reliable and affordable power for rural Arizona.

Bahr’s statements undermine the Sierra Club’s credibility, and we would hope they would issue an appropriate correction.

We, like the Sierra Club, want a better environment for ourselves and our children. And we earnestly believe we can do our part to assist the EPA in reducing haze in scenic national parks. All we are seeking is a little flexibility and a reasonable timeline that takes into account our size and our unique not-for-profit cooperative model.

— Geoff Oldfather is manager of communications for the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative.

2 comments

  1. Sierra Club–will destroy this country–they do not have a clue on the environment-they want it all or nothing–there is no proof that the any “haze” over the Grand Canyon is caused exclusively by the Apache Generating Station. Sierra Club let the people of this state have the ability to earn a living–your dogmatic agenda is taking this country down

  2. A lot more to this phenomena than haze. These coal fired power stations emit poisonous fumes which severly damage people’s health.

    They also burn the very worst kind of coal in this regard. (Not all coal is alike).

    It will cost a whole lot of $$ to remedy this situation, but it can and should be done.

    I stand with Sandy Bahr and the Sierra Club on this matter.

    Janet C. Tillotson, Scottsdale

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