U.S. REP. RON BARBER URGES EPA TO CONTINUE PRODUCTIVE TALKS WITH COCHISE COUNTY POWER PLANT OPERATORS
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today urged continued cooperation between the Environmental Protection Agency and a major power plant in Cochise County to achieve a reduction in regional haze while minimizing the impact on the power plant’s customers.
Today, officials from the EPA as well as from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality joined Barber’s district director for a tour of the plant to assess the impact that expensive modifications would have on electricity rates and jobs in Cochise County.
“I am pleased that the EPA has listened to my request to work with the plant owners in an effort to protect ratepayers and jobs in Cochise County,” Barber said today. “I will continue working with the EPA, as well as officials from state government and the plant, to find a solution that works for all concerned.”
The EPA has proposed an emission limit that will require the installation of additional, expensive technology at the Apache Generating Station, located between Benson and Willcox. The plant is owned and operated by the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative.
The EPA says its goal is to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions that cause haze which the agency says is impacting visibility at national parks and wilderness areas in the Southwest.
As early as Nov. 21, Barber stressed that he supports that goal. But he has expressed concern about the cost of the technology and potential costs to his constituents. The Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, owner and operator of the plant, said the technology would cost more than $160 million, forcing it to increase rates – possibly by 20 percent – and lay off employees.
The Apache plant supports 260 jobs and serves 150,000 customers in rural southeastern Arizona. One-third of those customers are at or below the Federal Poverty Level.
Because of those concerns, Barber toured the plant in December and arranged for a meeting in Washington last month between officials from EPA and from the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative. An official from the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative discussed the meeting and Barber’s work on the issue in a Feb. 6 article in the Benson News-Sun.
Today, Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the EPA, and a local member of his staff joined an Arizona DEQ official as well as Jessica Floyd, Barber’s district director, for a tour of Apache so all parties could better understand first-hand the issues involved.
An additional technical meeting will be held later this week with EPA and plant officials.
In a follow-up letter today to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Barber wrote, “I am writing to urge your continued cooperation with Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO).”
“I appreciate the consideration that your agency has showed thus far in meeting with me and representatives of AEPCO to discuss potential resolutions to ensure the Apache facility remains viable into the future,” Barber added.
Barber also urged the EPA acting administrator to “move expeditiously” to come to a solution. “It is my hope that a resolution can be found quickly that fulfills the objectives of the regional haze standards, while minimizing costs for my constituents,” Barber wrote.
A copy of Barber’s letter is below and attached as a pdf here.
March 4, 2013
The Honorable Bob Perciasepe
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460
Dear Acting Administrator Perciasepe:
I am writing to urge your continued cooperation with Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) in consideration of the additional data and information they have presented to the agency on the impacts of the Regional Haze Federal Implementation Plan on operations at Apache Generating Station and their ratepayers in rural Arizona.
I appreciate the consideration that your agency has showed thus far in meeting with me and representatives of AEPCO to discuss potential resolutions to ensure the Apache facility remains viable into the future. Further, I am encouraged that Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld has toured the Apache facility and has scheduled additional technical meetings between EPA, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and AEPCO to evaluate the impact of the federal implementation plan and potential alternatives that still would achieve emissions reductions and similar visibility improvements.
I ask that you and your staff continue to move expeditiously in conducting these meetings and in reviewing the additional information presented by AEPCO to determine whether the information and alternatives presented warrant reconsideration or other appropriate regulatory relief. It is my hope that a resolution can be found quickly that fulfills the objectives of the regional haze standards, while minimizing costs for my constituents.
Thank you for your efforts and for your consideration of this request.
Member of Congress
Monday, March 4, 2013
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber
Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District
(520) 881-3588 or (520) 904-5876