Ron Barber toured Benson’s Apache Generating Station Friday, according to a release from his office. This visit, and a recent letter from his office to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concerning the coal-fired power plant, brings Barber’s energy vision to the forefront for examination.
Barber is expected to be a friend of the solar industry after touting his belief during the campaign that Arizona can become a global leader in the technology. He continues to host the popular “Solar Power 101” workshops that he and former Rep. Giffords initiated in 2007. He also joined the forward-thinking House ‘Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition’ (SEEC) upon being sworn in this summer.
These are positive signs from a congressman who recognizes the economic potential solar energy offers for his district and state. However his recent letter to Administrator Jackson should raise eyebrows for those hoping southern Arizona has a Congressman (other than Rep. Grijalva) it can trust to defend the environment, clean up the air, and take the threat of climate change seriously.
An excerpt from Barber’s letter:
“Under the (EPA’s) FIP, the Apache Station could be forced to both increase rates and eliminate jobs to meet the required emissions limits. These negative impacts are not in the best interests of my constituents. I am requesting that EPA reconsider this plan and the short timeline imposed on this facility to install new technology and emission controls. I believe that every effort should be made to allow the facility to act to improve visibility over a period of time that will ensure that it can remain viable well into the future. Additionally, I am requesting a meeting to discuss these concerns and how we can best work together to protect the Apache Generating Station and its customers.”
Barber’s concern for his constituents should extend to those who suffer from the effects of the pollution-spewing facility, as well as the economy of the mid and latter 21st century that will be ravished by climate change.
According to a 2010 Abt Associates study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, fine particle pollution from Apache Generating Station annually causes 6 heart attacks, 77 asthma attacks (4 resulting in ER visits), and 4 deaths. Abt assigned a monetary value to these events showing the annual health impact of the station equals approximately $32 million. ER visits are an expensive burden on individuals and society, and it is hard to put a value on human life. Barber would be smart to weigh these factors before he “ensures that it (Apache) can remain viable well into the future”.
The jury is out on the environmental credentials of southern Arizona’s new congressman. Keep an eye out for his impending vote for or against extending the wind energy Production Tax Credit, an initiative that is laying the foundation for a clean energy economy in America’s windy Midwest.