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EPA guidelines are a calamity in the making

For months, we heard the resounding warnings about how new Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at power generation could affect Arizona consumers and businesses. Now that the agency’s proposal has officially been released, it is clear that these warnings were not in vain, for the guidelines EPA put forth will leave our state and our country on the brink of economic calamity.

Arizona has had a front-row seat to EPA’s ongoing assault on affordable energy. Yet again, we find our state facing more overreaching and punitive regulations from the Obama administration and Washington, D.C., which yield no benefit but will cause energy costs to skyrocket and the reliability of our power grid to suffer. The EPA has already forced the shutdown of a number of coal-fueled power plant units in Arizona, and now it appears the agency is coming after the rest.

Arizona relies on a balanced mix of sources for our electricity. Last year, base load generation sources like coal, nuclear and natural gas made up more than 90 percent of our electricity supply, with intermittent sources like solar comprising the remainder. Under EPA’s most recent proposal, Arizona would be required to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 52 percent, the second most stringent reduction requirement of any state.

It is unclear how EPA set these standards, and even experts are puzzled by the more than 1,600-page proposal and its nebulous justifications. What is clear is that Arizona will have to cut coal use significantly, which will fundamentally alter the energy makeup of our state and leave Arizona ratepayers paying the price for EPA’s costly, politically driven plan.

How and why does EPA expect Arizona to reduce CO2 emissions by 52 percent? Through increasing electricity from intermittent, higher-cost renewable energy by 100 percent, increasing electricity from natural gas – which Arizona would have to import from other states – by 95 percent, and eliminating the use of coal to generate electricity. Again, why? With a plan like that, even EPA admits that energy prices will increase and jobs will be lost because of its proposal. Analyses of carbon reduction proposals similar to that of EPA’s predict that electricity prices for Arizona ratepayers could increase by as much as 31 percent, and that as many as 9,000 jobs per year could be lost in Arizona and throughout the Southwest.

My colleagues and I passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1022 earlier this year to declare state primacy over the federal government on this issue. Knowing that these regulations would soon be upon us, we wanted to ensure that we made it clear to the Obama administration that we would not stand for the same costly policymaking we have witnessed from this White House and its team of unelected agency bureaucrats.

We believe Arizona is best positioned to make decisions about what Arizona needs, and it is important that we lead, not be led, in crafting energy policy that stands to have such an enormous impact on our residents and businesses. EPA’s proposal is unworkable in every way. There is nothing to fix, nothing to “work out;” it is simply the wrong approach with little consideration for the cost and reliability impacts.

Now, I urge my colleagues, including the Department of Environmental Quality and the Arizona Corporation Commission, to represent the people of Arizona and do their part in getting EPA to withdrawal this senseless proposal. I trust the resolution adopted by the state Legislature will be used as a springboard to protect our state’s families and businesses from EPA’s overreaching regulations—before it’s too late.

— Steve Pierce is chairman of the state Senate’s Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee.

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