Rim Country’s state Representative Brenda Barton (R-Payson) has a bone to pick with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and she picked it clean in a speech to the Payson Tea Party on Sept. 5.
“That picture shows what made Arizona great, the five Cs — cotton, citrus, copper, climate and cattle,” she said. “The EPA is trying to regulate all of those out of business in Arizona.”
Barton said the new EPA “haze standards” and carbon emission controls threaten to close the Navajo Generating Station energy plant near the Grand Canyon, which will lead to the loss of 81,000 megawatts of energy, higher water prices, and a loss of hundreds of jobs.
“The EPA says visitors can’t see the national park,” she said. “I took this picture from the coal processing plant — do you see haze?”
Her picture looked out from one of the coal-burning plant’s stacks on a sunny day with not a cloud in the sky or a bit of haze.
The audience then talked about the natural haze produced by pollen and Barton said Native Americans a century ago called Phoenix the ‘city of smoke.’
“The haze back then was not man-made,” she said.
The 2,250-megawatt, coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page sits 12 miles from the boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park and produces more pollution than any other single source in Arizona and is the eighth-leading producer of greenhouse gases in the nation. The federal Clean Air Task Force estimates that pollution from the plant contributes to 16 premature deaths, 300 asthma attacks and 15 emergency room visits annually, with annual health care costs of $127 million. Pollutants from the plant drift into 10 national parks and monuments.
The plant operators previously installed filters that reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent, but the EPA now wants expensive additional changes to reduce nitrogen oxide and soot.
Research has shown that soot not only reduces visibility, but plays a much bigger role in respiratory illnesses and neurological damage than previously thought. The power companies that operate the plant have said they may have to shut down the plant if the EPA insists on the proposed pollution controls.
One study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that even with the added pollution controls the Navajo generating plant would produce power more cheaply than any other regional source. The cost of the controls would add an estimated 1 percent to electric rates, the study concluded.
Barton’s biggest beef centered on the burgeoning bureaucratic bluster of the federal agency. “The EPA does protect citizens, but it needs to stay within its original mission,” she said. “We would rather be first among equals in a balance with D.C.”
Barton’s presentation responded to the EPA turning its carbon emissions spotlight on the coal-burning generator near Page.
The generating station has three 750-megawatt generators capable of generating enough energy to not only serve the Phoenix area, but also California and Nevada. It provides most of the energy needed to operate the Central Arizona Project, which provides Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson.
Both the Navajo and Hopi tribes benefit from the power plant, said Barton. The Hopi provide the coal and the Navajo allow the plant on their reservation and work in the plant, a major job producer on a reservation with a 50 percent unemployment rate.
Because of the carbon-dioxide emission mandates from the EPA, the Navajo power plant decided to appease the federal agency by shutting down one of its generators, or about a third of its production.
This has caused the California and Nevada utilities that have part ownership of the coal power plant to remove their financial interests by the time the plant shuts down one of its reactors.
Barton’s presentation prompted one attendee to ask, “This is all Agenda 21, right?”
Barton agreed. The comment refers to claims that a 30-year-old United Nations resolution supported by more than 100 countries supporting “sustainable” development policies represents an effort to control the U.S. on the part of the international organization.
When another audience member asked where the Obama Administration planned on getting enough energy, Barton said she believes the administration is looking at specialized fees on the base load energy costs.
“You will want to put solar on your house,” she said, “They will ask that you move into the city where electricity will be available.”
Another attendee said he believes we will experience brown outs and black outs because of the EPA mandates.
“How do we get rid of the EPA? If we don’t, we are stuck with the Banana Republic of the U.S.A.”
Barton agreed that the agency has gotten out of control.
“I read on the Drudge Report that the EPA showed up in full riot gear to a mine in Alaska — they were going to test the waters and they showed up like that — this was the EPA,” she said.
The Alaska Dispatch reported that an eight-man team in body armor with assault weapons showed up at the remote community of Chicken to test the water used in a gold mining operation. The team found no problems with the water and issued no citations.
When asked what the Four Forest Restoration initiative could offer in terms of energy, Barton responded that she believes restoring the forests to a more manageable number of trees per acre would increase water in the water shed, solving one of the issues created when the Navajo plant shuts down a third of its production.
“Why does the EPA mess with the system?” said Barton.
The 4FRI plan calls for using small trees and brush to generate electricity at small power generating plants.