FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2012
Arizona Corporation Commission Sanctions Waste Incinerator as Renewable Energy
Promotes Burning Trash Over Clean Solar Generation
Phoenix, AZ – Yesterday, on a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved allowing trash burning to be considered a renewable energy resource under Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard. This opens the door for Mohave Electric Cooperative to utilize dollars intended to jumpstart clean renewable energy and to instead subsidize a waste incinerator or waste-to-energy facility. Commissioners Gary Pierce, Brenda Burns, and Bob Stump voted to approve this project. Voting no were Commissioners Kennedy and Newman.
“Promoting polluting and dated technologies such as burning trash to produce electricity is a step backwards for Arizona’s renewable energy programs,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Waste incinerators were specifically rejected when the Renewable Energy Standard was established because of the negative environmental impacts and the fact that the waste can include hazardous materials, plastics, tires, and other nonrenewable resources. This decision by the Arizona Corporation Commission sets a very bad precedent as well as undermines the purpose of the Standard, which was to promote clean renewable energy such as solar and wind.”
Reclamation Power Group, an entity with no track record on building and operating waste incinerators, is proposing to build this “Waste-to-Energy” project west of the town of Surprise and within both the particulate and ozone nonattainment areas. Approximately 500 tons of trash would be delivered by truck to the site each day, most of which would be burned to create heat to produce steam to generate electricity. The facility would operate 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Mohave Electric Cooperative applied for a pilot project or waiver from the Commission, so it could buy the renewable energy credits to meet its requirements under the Renewable Energy Standard.
The Commission is allowing Mohave Electric Cooperative to count as renewable 90 percent of the electricity produced by burning trash. Commissioners even exceeded the staff recommendation of counting 75 percent and instead went with the higher number as the proponents of the facility indicated they needed it to make this facility economically viable. This decision was based on a partial truckload of trash from one community and flies in the face of studies throughout the country, including one in Phoenix, that indicate that 40-75 percent of energy from these facilities could fall within this category.
“This is unfair to Mohave Electric’s ratepayers as they will be paying more for this electricity based on it being a renewable energy resource,” said Tim Hogan, executive director for the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. “There is no way that 90 percent of the electricity from this incinerator will be from renewable resources – even Mohave’s own experts recognized that this number was out of the normal range for these facilities.”
Beyond the fact that the Commission based its decision on weak and misleading data from the applicant, it failed to even consider the public policy implications of siting such a heavily polluting facility in an area that already suffers from poor air quality.
“These incinerators produce many air pollutants, including hazardous air pollutants such as mercury and dioxin,” said Bahr. “Reducing and recycling waste and producing electricity with solar and wind is much more protective of our air, water and land, and the health of everyone who lives in our communities. It makes zero sense to put this type of facility in an area that already does not meet health-based standards for several air pollutants.”
The Sierra Club had intervened in the application process and was represented by Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest.
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