Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Sandy Bahr, sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org or (602) 999-5790

February 11, 2013

The Sierra Club Calls on the State Legislature to Support Clean Air Measures at Arizona Coal Plants

PHOENIX – A special joint meeting of the State Legislature – comprising of the Senate Committee on Government and Environment and the House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources – begins today discussions on the recent air pollution safeguards issued for the Navajo, Apache, Cholla, and Coronado coal plants. 

In response, Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director of the Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter issued the following statement:

“The Environmental Protection Agency has announced long-awaited air quality protections for several of Arizona’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants” said Sandy Bahr in a statement sent to the State Legislature.  “These protections will limit dangerous emissions that pollute skies over Arizona’s pristine national parks, including Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, better protecting public health and saving Arizonans millions of dollars in health costs.”

“These standards are 35 years in the making, resulting from 1977 revisions of the Clean Air Act, which aimed at reducing pollution over America’s most pristine public lands” Bahr continued in her statement.  “In recent years, the federal government has missed numerous court-ordered deadlines to implement the 1977 Congressional directive to protect our national parks, which contribute billions in economic activity for local communities across the country, including in Arizona.”

As outlined, the new safeguards will require operators of the Apache, Cholla, and Coronado coal plants to install modern pollution reduction equipment to limit nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 90 percent.  Nitrogen oxide is a key ingredient of smog, one of America’s most dangerous forms of pollution.  That equipment, known as selective catalytic reduction, is now in wide use at over 200 coal-fired power units across the country, including Arizona’s Springerville Generating Station.

Every year, pollution from the Apache, Coronado, and Cholla coal plants cause nearly 41 deaths, 63 heart attacks, 747 asthma attacks, 30 hospital admissions, 38 emergency room visits, and 26 cases of chronic bronchitis, according to data from the Clean Air Task Force.[i]  All told, the three coal plants cost Arizonans almost $314 million dollars in health expenses every year.

Navajo Generating Station

The EPA has also announced plans to clean up the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), located only 12 miles from one of our country’s most cherished national parks –Grand Canyon.  NGS is a major source of industrial pollution for the region, obscuring scenic views of Grand Canyon and ten other designated parks and wilderness areas throughout the Southwest, including Mesa Verde and Canyonlands national parks.  The Navajo Generating Station coal plant threatens the annual economic benefit of $687 million to the regional economy from Grand Canyon visitors, as well as the thousands of jobs that depend on the wild beauty and natural health of the region.[ii]

Haze-forming pollution, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulates, not only reduces visibility but also poses severe health risks.[iii]  The Clean Air Task Force estimates that pollution from NGS costs more than $127 million every year[iv] for health care by contributing to asthma attacks, severe respiratory problems, lung disease, heart complications, and premature death.

Clean Air Act protections

The Environmental Protection Agency carefully looked at five factors in making its Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) pollution controls determination.  These factors were the cost of compliance, the energy and non-air quality environmental impacts of compliance, any existing pollution control technology in use at the source, the remaining useful life of the source, and the degree of visibility improvements that may reasonably be anticipated from the use of BART.

“As we move forward to meet these Clean Air Act protections for all of these power plants and other facilities as well, it is important to support the protections put in place for cleaning up Cholla, Coronado, and Apache Generating Stations and to work for clean up and a transition plan at NGS” continued Bahr.  “There are a lot of uncertainties that need to be resolved, but we do know that continuing to rely on coal-fired power plants risks our health, our national icons, such as Grand Canyon, and will only get costlier.  Coal is already being outcompeted in the energy market[v].”

A transition to clean energy jobs

Jobs that are relying on the coal industry will continue to be at risk if we don’t do something right now – investing in a transition to clean energy jobs to make sure that the local workforce is taken care of must be a priority.  The Bureau of Land Management estimates that renewable potential on public lands in Arizona could create approximately 2,505 MW of renewable energy, primarily solar and wind, on public lands alone.  Developing these resources is estimated to create approximately 16,358 jobs over the span on 20 years.[vi]  The future plans for all of these facilities should include taking care of their workforce.  After profiting for decades and polluting local communities, owners have a responsibility to ensure that transition plans are in place as we move to generating more of our electricity from clean renewable energy sources and reducing our energy consumption through energy efficiency measures.

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[i] Death and Disease from Power Plants, http://www.catf.us/fossil/problems/power_plants/existing/, accessed on February 11, 2013.

[ii] Executive Summary, Grand Canyon National Park & Northern Arizona Tourism Study.  Prepared by Northern Arizona University School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, 2005. Available at http://www.azot.gov/documents/Grand_Canyon_Visitor_Study_Executive_Summary.pdf, accessed 02/11/2013

[vi] Center for American Progress Study on Renewable Energy in the West http://www.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/issues/2012/08/pdf/renewable_energy_west.pdf