Arizona Opposes Federal Requirements to Increase Visibility

Arizona Opposes Federal Requirements to Increase Visibility

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Arizona Opposes Federal Requirements to Increase Visibility

 

On November 16, 2012, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement to place air pollution controls on electricity generating stations in the state.

The program under the EPA is intended to increase visibility but not necessarily improve public health.  The EPA wanted three electricity generating stations to install air pollution controls costing up to $500 million, but ADEQ argued the air pollution controls will add no noticeable improvements to air visibility. 

Faced with opposition, the EPA has now delayed its decision until a date in the future. 

The three companies initially subject to the strict air pollution controls are AEPCO Apache Generating Station in Benson, APS Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City, and SRP Coronado Generating Station in St. Johns. 

ADEQ Director Henry Darwin explained, “The Clean Air Act gives each State the responsibility and right to develop a plan to improve visibility within its own borders.  It also obligates EPA to determine whether the State’s plan complies with the Act, not to substitute its judgment for the State’s.  We are disappointed that EPA would choose to unilaterally decide what’s best for Arizona rather than work with ADEQ as a partner to address its concerns.”

Arizona first began to submit plans to improve visibility in national parks and protected wilderness areas in the state during 2003 and 2004.  The state’s program is referred to as “regional haze.” The only time the EPA took any action was in 2009 when the agency stated certain elements needed changed in the plans. 

As required by law, ADEQ revised its plans and submitted a comprehensive regional haze plan to the EPA on February 28, 2011.  Under the Clean Air Act, ADEQ was required to balance costs for non-air environmental pollution, current controls on air pollution, the estimated life of the power generating stations, and potential improvements of the controls at the facilities. 

The plans proposed by ADEQ called for weaker air pollution controls compared to the EPA. 

The EPA needed to make a decision on ADEQ’s plan by August 28, 2012.  However, a DC Circuit Court approved a settlement between the EPA and certain environmental groups on July 2, 2012.  The Court extended the time EPA can decide on ADEQ’s plan, and it gave the EPA the ability to override Arizona’s proposed plan. 

Additionally, ADEQ sent a 60-day advanced notice to the EPA on October 12, 2012 stating it intended to sue for the EPA’s failure to make a timely decision on ADEQ’s proposed plans.

The Court’s decision and ADEQ’s notice are still pending. 

Source: Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

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