Arizona sues EPA over “absurd” coal emission rules

posted at 4:31 pm on February 4, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

To paraphrase Herman’s Hermits: Second term, same as the first?  The latest front in the war on coal has shifted far from the mines which produce the raw materials for energy production, and to a state known for its contentious relationship with the Obama administration.  Arizona has filed suit against the EPA over new rules that it calls “absurd,” and which will drive up energy costs for little practical purpose (via The Right Scoop):

Arizona challenged in federal court U.S. environmental regulators efforts to force Arizona power companies to spend up to $1 billion to install pollution control equipment at three coal plants to reduce haze in the region’s national parks.

Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne said in a statement last week the emission control measures proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not affect health or be reduce emissions visible to the human eye.

“This is an absurd action that would significantly raise utility rates for most Arizonans without providing any benefit to anyone,” Horne said in a statement. … “This attempt by the EPA has nothing to do with ensuring clean air and everything to do with trying to eliminate coal as a source of electricity,” Horne said.

At issue in the new rules, proposed in December, is nitrogen oxides.  The EPA claims that the emissions of nitrogen oxides by coal plants in Arizona creates “haze” in the Grand Canyon and other national parks.  They are therefore claiming jurisdiction over Arizona’s coal plants, and will demand the installation of very expensive upgrades or a shutdown of the plants.  With the price tag at $1 billion, the inevitable outcome will be a shutdown.

That will kill 40% of Arizona’s power, however, and not just Arizona.  California buys plenty of excess power from Arizona, which will either have to get a lot more expensive for consumers in both states, or less power will be available.  That could mean that Los Angeles will see shortages, for instance, or that California will have to start encouraging a lot more production in the state.

A big reduction in electricity will also impact the water supply, or at least the prices to bring it to market.  It may also damage the economic standing of the Navajo nation:

The EPA recommended the owners of the 2,250-MW Navajo coal plant in Arizona install equipment to reduce haze in national parks that could cost as much as $1.1 billion.

Navajo produces power used to deliver drinking water to consumers for the Central Arizona Project Water in the state’s two largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson, among other things.

Horne warned if the EPA forces Navajo to shut, power prices for the Central Arizona Project Water would increase by at least 20 percent.

If the EPA attempts to make water more expensive and/or scarce, you can bet that Arizona is going to fight that for as long as they possibly can.  The war on coal continues in the regulatory adventurism of the EPA, and we can expect another four years of it unless the states can defeat it in court.

Update: The US Chamber of Commerce produced a report critical of the EPA’s efforts to open a new regulatory front on “regional haze” last year.  Its conclusion:

In discussions with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, EPA has indicated that it will press for $250 million in “double dip” controls, specifically SCR technology. As is seen in the Minnesota Case Study later in this paper, EPA’s preferred RAVI controls would achieve an imperceptible benefit in visibility improvement. The Minnesota example makes clear that there is no refuge from EPA’s visibility regulations.

In the long term, EPA’s abuse of its Regional Haze authority could present a persistent problem for all states. Under its rules, states must revise their Regional Haze implementation plans every 10 years, until the nation’s ambient air is returned to natural conditions (which is to say, forever). If EPA’s regional haze power grab is allowed to stand, then the agency would have assumed an enormous new source of authority, with which it could effectively impose whatever controls it wants once every decade.

It is thus imperative for states to act now to check EPA on Regional Haze, thereby preserving the structure established by Congress and ensuring the balance of environmental federalism.

I understand they will have more on this tomorrow.  Stay tuned.


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