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Arizona leaders react to proposed EPA rules on carbon emissions

Henry Darwin, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, details for lawmakers why they should remove a 2010 restriction that bars his agency from coming up with plans to reduce greenhouse gases. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Henry Darwin, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, details for lawmakers why they should remove a 2010 restriction that bars his agency from coming up with plans to reduce greenhouse gases. (Photo by Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Rep. Frank Pratt, chairman of the Arizona House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said a lack of confidence in the former director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality was at the heart of legislation preventing the agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions without express legislative authorization.

Pratt, R-Casa Grande, said he has confidence in the current director, Henry Darwin, and could envision a repeal of HB2442 to give the agency the ability to respond to the proposed U. S. Environmental Protection Agency rules.

“For me personally, I would be comfortable in reversing the law,” Pratt said, “but I don’t know if the House membership will be comfortable.”

He said members of the state House of Representatives may prefer to wait until next January, when a new governor is in office, to take legislative action. He said he wanted Darwin to tell the committee how soon they needed legislative approval and understood that ADEQ could start working on a plan in anticipation of that approval.

Benjamin Grumbles served as director of ADEQ from 2009 to 2010.  Grumbles came to ADEQ from the EPA’s Office of Water as an appointee of Gov. Jan Brewer.

Darwin was appointed to the post by Brewer in February 2011.

Scientist credits EPA proposal for flexibility

A scientist at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability said the EPA’s proposed rules have a lot of flexibility for states to develop their plans. Sonja Klinsky, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor at the school, said the EPA proposal is an opportunity to make Arizona greener and more energy efficient.

Klinsky said the target carbon reduction for each state in the proposed rules is a product of its current energy use and resources, and its efficiency achievements to date.

“Every state is incredibly different in its energy mix,” she said.  “Where does its energy come from? What opportunities does it have for moving to a more green economic structure? What are its energy needs?

“Arizona already has great energy efficiency programs in place, and we have huge solar potential,” Klinsky said, which may be factors in the EPA’s goal for the state.

She also said there is a generous amount of time for the state to implement a plan. Though each state has to submit a plan by June 2016, with some extensions for legislative approvals or multi-state approaches, they have until 2030 to meet the carbon reduction goal.

“We have fifteen years to figure this out. That’s a very long time.”  Klinsky said, “Industry has stressed that it needs time in order to make transitions at the lowest cost.

“Industry is innovative. They can find smart ways to minimize the cost of regulatory change,” she says.

On a global level, Klinsky said it’s important for the U.S to demonstrate a willingness to reduce emissions in order to negotiate international climate treaties. High-emitting countries such as China need to see the U.S. moving toward a greener economy to convince them to participate in energy-efficiency efforts.

APS plan and reaction

Steven Gottfried is a spokesman on environmental issues for Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility company. He said APS anticipated the proposed rules, which had been signaled by President Obama a year ago. However, the company is still reviewing the 600-page Clean Power Plan released by the EPA this month and cannot make any response, he said, except that it will comply with all rules and regulations.

APS recently submitted its 2014 Integrated Resource Plan to the Arizona Corporation Commission. The plan projects the company’s growth in customers and energy output through 2029, one year before the target date of the EPA’s emissions reduction goal.

APS serves 1.2 million customers now and expects to add 600,000 by 2030. The APS plan projects no change in the amount of energy produced by coal or nuclear power plants, but more than double the energy produced by natural gas and also by renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal. APS also plans to increase energy efficiency to more than three times the current rate in the next 15 years.

Gottfried was unable to say, at this time, whether the company’s plan reflected its anticipation of the EPA-proposed rule.

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