by Will Greene
Finally, a high profile political figure is paying attention to Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce’s impending dagger-in-the-back plan to cripple our state’s burgeoning solar industry.
US Rep. Ron Barber has penned an excellent op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star. Read it in full here.
Some highlights: “Is there such a thing as too much solar power? Are too many individuals and businesses putting solar panels on their roofs? Is it time to call a halt to the burgeoning solar energy industry, shut down all those profitable solar companies and find more ways of generating electricity from coal and other nonrenewable forms of energy? That's backward thinking. But that's the future that the Arizona Corporation Commission envisions as it proposes to take a giant step into the past and discourage Arizonans from installing solar panels.”
“Both TEP and APS have done a commendable job of expanding their renewable energy portfolios - and this should be supported, not punished. Meanwhile, look what neighboring states have done: Colorado has a 30 percent standard by 2020. California has a 33 percent renewable standard by 2020 and says it will meet that by a "comfortable margin." But the ACC move will send employment plunging in the renewable energy field.”
A few months ago I asked, what can environmentalists expect from Rep. Barber? The prognosis was worrisome as the Southern Arizona Rep had just wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency touting his hope that Apache Generating Station, Southern Arizona’s largest single source of air and climate pollution, “remain viable well into the future.”
Today, we need to thank Barber for heightening the level of attention on Commissioner Pierce’s amendment to decrease Arizona’s renewable energy targets. Tomorrow, we need to hold his feet to the fire about Apache Generating Station, as well as the burning of coal at Tucson Electric Power’s H. Wilson Sundt Generating Station on Irvington Road, only yards from a neighborhood and school.
His op-ed in the Star is a fantastic sign that Barber is coming around on Arizona’s need to transition from coal to solar. To display true solar leadership and concern for the global climate crisis, Barber needs to promote a comprehensive plan to move TEP aggressively away from coal, and support an end to the devastating air and climate effects of Apache Generating Station.
(Update - 4:30 pm)
In a story posted by PennEnergy, Rep. Barber's District Director Jessica Floyd toured Apache Generating Station today with regional administrator for the EPA Jared Blumenfeld, and an ADEQ official. In a letter sent to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe, Barber restated his hopes of keeping Southern Arizona's largest single source of air and climate pollution open indefinitely.“I am writing to urge your continued cooperation with Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO). I appreciate the consideration that your agency has showed thus far in meeting with me and representatives of AEPCO to discuss potential resolutions to ensure the Apache facility remains viable into the future,” Barber added.
This throws some cold ice on hopes Barber was coming around with his energy vision. While calling out the ACC in today's Star op-ed was an inspiring moment, the continued addiction to coal in Southern Arizona (TEP's portfolio is 80% coal-fired), and Barber's support of this status quo, should be enough to bring clean energy advocates back down to earth.