They are our neighbors. They live to the north of us in rural Arizona. Some are Native Americans, many still live in primitive conditions; other folks dwell in small communities, eking out livelihoods. Various are generational Arizonans, whose pioneer forefathers settled this state.
They are us and we are them. What affects their lives, affects ours. If we get that, if we understand many of their jobs send electrical power and water into our Valley, our homes and businesses, then we’ll awaken to one more critical issue in this election.
Threats to jobs dependent on coal and its affordable energy are real. They’re spreading nationwide. The aggressor is the radical Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), now firmly established as “the fourth branch of government” in Washington. It continues to muscle its agendas, never satiated, ever introducing the next hurdle, apparently unstoppable when it comes to its war on people.
The EPA is solidly backed by President Obama who vows war against coal. You think this is just an Appalachian problem, where our neighbors to our east, hundreds of miners, are losing their jobs?
Yahoo News (Sept. 21) reports: “More than 200 generating units across 25 states are scheduled for shut down, in part due to EPA regulations.” What Yahoo didn’t talk about is what’s happening in Arizona.
Consider our East Valley community, which is fighting for stability amid job losses, higher food and gas prices and has just emerged from one of our long hot summers. This beautiful area will die without water and affordable air conditioning. Well, hold on for potential skyrocketing utility bills if the EPA isn’t blocked.
Salt River Project, a major, Valley power provider, tells me “yes,” it would have to pass along any further costs incurred. In fact, SRP’s recent environmental improvements, as per the EPA, have already forced the company to seek an average 3.9 percent customer rate increase. (The SRP board of directors approved the rate hike on Sept. 27).
What you should know is SRP and other power companies have already met EPA standards to reduce emissions 40 percent. Now suddenly, new regulations to the tune of $1.1 billion are threatening the Navajo Generating station which moves most of Arizona’s water. And, three other plants face the same thing. Some warn they will be forced to shut down if the feds push this.
The EPA will tell you this is about cleaner air, reducing nitrogen emissions. But coal-powered operators tell us there is no proof the EPA’s newest demands will make any difference.
Who doesn’t want clean air and water? But, now we’ve entered the subjective realm with our generating plants. What is clean and at what cost to our economy and quality of life?
The attack on Northern Arizona’s economy is not new. Several decades back, the vitality of rural communities was buried by the EPA. Forest harvests were closed over such things as spotted owls (who most likely burned in the resulting forest fire infernos). Saw mills and support businesses, by the dozens, were shut down, no lumber to process; generations of Northern Arizona families scrambled to survive, choking in jobless misery. Now, here we go again, another EPA attack.
Gov. Jan Brewer says, “This is the worst possible time to enact these regulations,” And, she adds, “The EPA’s actions are about politics not science.”
Last month, the Republican-controlled U.S. House passed a bill to stop Obama’s “war on coal,” and limit the EPA’s regulatory authority. Good luck in the Senate.
Interestingly, Obama downgrades our coal industry just as Japan is looking to ease coal regulation as it moves away from nuclear power. Hum.
I agree with the governor. This latest EPA strike is about “politics, not science.” Don’t wait for more unemployment or rising utility rates. If you’re not registered to vote yet, you know what to do. Then take a friend with you to the polls.
• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.