Corporation Commission blocks Coolidge Generating Station expansion

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The Arizona Corporation Commission recently voted against the expansion of a natural gas plant near the small town of Randolph, a historically Black community South of Coolidge. Residents of Randolph fought against the expansion and won. We talked about it with Sandy Bahr, of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, which joined Randolph residents in fighting the expansion.

The Salt River Project (SRP) proposed an expansion of the Coolidge Generating Station, which would add a total of 16 additional generators to the station’s current 12.

“They really rushed it through the process, they rushed it through their board to get it approved after announcing it, went to the Power Plant and Line Siting Committee that approved it, and then next up was the Arizona Corporation Commission,” Bahr said. “That’s where it was rejected by the commission on a 4-1 vote.”

Any proposed power plant in Arizona that would generate more than 100 megawatts of power must receive a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility from the Corporation Commission.

“Specifically, the Commission is supposed to look at whether something is in the public interest, and look at what the environmental impact will be,” Bahr said. “The commissioners found that it would cause significant harm, that it was not within the public’s interest, and that SRP really had not done a very good job preparing for this and providing information to its rate-payers, the people of Randolph, and ultimately to the Commission.”

Randolph is a primarily Black unincorporated community about 5 miles South of Coolidge in Pinal County.

“The environmental and health harms were Cited, particularly the impacts on air quality in an area that already violates health-based standards for particulates,” Bahr said. “The people of Randolph have already experienced a lot of harm. There’s an existing plant there, and there are other industrial facilities. They have fought them, and unfortunately, they went forward anyway. This time they pushed hard and they spoke up, and the Commission heard them. ”

SRP argued that they must construct additional generating capacity is necessary to maintain the stability of the power grid, but the Commission rejected that the plant expansion was needed to do this.

“The Commission acknowledged that they needed more, but that there were other ways they could get there. This was true of the experts who testified to the Line Siting Committee too. Looking at solar and storage, there are other ways to get there, increasing energy efficiency, they didn’t just have to go ‘we’re going to build a huge gas plant”

Sandy Bahr / Chapter Director of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club

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