Two Democratic contenders for Arizona Corporation Commission charged Wednesday that the Republicancontrolled panel is letting Arizona bear the environmental burden of California’s energy needs.
Nina Trasoff and Mark Manoil said many — if not most — of the nearly two dozen gas-fired power plants approved by the commission since 1998 are producing power that is not needed here. The net result, they said, is Arizona’s air is being polluted, its water is being used and its views are being ruined by transmission lines to benefit Californians.
"I don’t think that’s fair or appropriate for the people of Arizona,’’ Trasoff said.
But Jeff Hatch-Miller, one of the three Republicans seeking reelection to new fouryear terms, called the charges "bogus.’’
He acknowledged Arizona doesn’t now need all the electricity that is and will be generated by the "merchant’’ power plants being built by private investors. But he said that by 2008 the peak summer demand will exceed the generating capacity of power plants owned by Arizona utilities.
And Bill Mundell, another incumbent, said charges of environmental damage don’t wash. "These power plants have the toughest air emission standards in the United States,’’ far tougher than even California, he said.
The campaign for the three seats is separate from a race between Republican incumbent Kris Mayes and Libertarian Rick Fowlkes to fill the remaining two years of the post occupied by Jim Irvin until he resigned last year.
Buttressing that contention is that Mundell and Hatch-Miller have been endorsed by the Sierra Club. Organization lobbyist Sandy Bahr said both have worked to minimize the environmental impact of new power plants and even have voted to reject two applications.
Bahr was less kind about the Mike Gleason, the third Republican seeking a new four-year term. "Pretty much anything that’s good for the environment he opposes,’’ she said.
The commission, in approving the new power plants, inserted clauses that say Arizona gets first claim on any electricity produced if it is needed here. Trasoff said that’s meaningless because "we haven’t been needing that much excess power.’’
Mundell said that day is coming, with 12,000 people per month moving to Arizona.