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Energy


Arizona Corporation Commission Votes to Weaken Renewable Energy Standard
Approves Waiver for Waste Incinerator

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 15, 2011

Contact: Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 253-8633-o, (602) 999-5790-c
              Tim Hogan, Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, (602) 258-8850

Phoenix, AZ – Late yesterday, on a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission approved a waiver to allow Mohave Electric Cooperative to count electricity from a waste incinerator as renewable energy.

“Municipal solid waste should not be considered a renewable resource and should not qualify for credits under Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard,” 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, tires, and other nonrenewable resources. This waiver 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.

“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.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Arizona Corporation Commission is showing so little regard for the Renewable Energy Standard or the health and welfare of the people of Arizona, including the people of Surprise who will be directly affected by the pollutants from this facility,” continued Bahr.

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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Saving Energy: Determining Our Environmental
Footprint and Setting a Goal for Reduction
So we have saved energy in the U.S., lots of energy
– can we rest on our success now?

Saving Energy Series, Part II
(Reprinted from the April-June, 2011, Rincon Group Newsletter)

by Russell Lowes, Rincon Group Energy Subcommittee Chair

In the first of this series, the article on page one, I covered the fact that we have improved our energy use dramatically since 1973.
While energy use has declined per dollar of economic activity, there is still a huge need for more of the same. Luckily there is also still a huge potential for these energy savings. Along with energy use improvement, our pollution decreases. Mercury pollution, CO2, smog, and many more pollutants decrease.
According to the Global Footprint Network (at http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/) The globe’s population is using resources and polluting our planet at one and a half times the maximum capacity of earth to regenerate. If we continue on at a “moderate business-as-usual” pace, we will essentially be using the earth up at a rate of about two and a quarter times the maximum capacity to regenerate by 2050. In 1973, we were using about 1.0 times the globe’s capacity to regenerate. From 2011 on, it will be necessary for rapid reduction in our impact to get back to below a oneearth impact level or capacity.
Amory Lovins, with the Rocky Mountain Institute is among the scientists that project we could radically reduce our energy production. His estimate is that we could technically continue to produce the goods we currently produce and continue to provide the services we currently provide in America for 80% less energy than we currently generate.
Lovins is not alone. There are others, like Arjun Makhijani at Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (www.ieer.org) who estimate that the United States (and beyond) could reduce our energy production and still sustain a healthy economy. A local-regional nonprofit group with a good take on these issues is Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (http://www.swenergy.org/).
We can truly revise our energy consumption and pollution emissions to pre-1973 levels and literally help the economy. It just takes education, commitment, ingenuity and persistence.
The next part in this series will be on what our energy options for the future are. It will disassemble the claim that we need all of the energy options, show us that by focusing on the highest yielding options, both environmentally and economically, we will be able to solve problems at a much faster rate. Stay tuned….

Resources:

Global Footprint Calculator:
This one is way fun! A step by step calculator is at: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/calculators/

Greenhouse Gas Emission Calculator: Nature Conservancy’s http://www.nature.org/initiatives/climatechange/calculator/?gclid=CK_jtarD7aYCFQqAgwod4yEpGg

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A Message from the Rincon Group’s Energy Subcommittee
(Reprinted from the October-December, 2009, Rincon Group Newsletter)

By Russell Lowes

Earlier this summer, the Rincon Group Executive Committee voted to establish an Energy Subcommittee, and appointed me chair of this new forum. I want to thank the Rincon ExComm for giving me this opportunity and invite anyone who has questions or comments to contact me at russlowes@gmail.com. More of my analyses can be found on my blog at www.SafeEnergyAnalyst.org It is an honor to serve the Sierra Club’s Rincon Group, which is an effective force in environmental evolution in Southern Arizona.

Energy/Climate Legislation
In this first article, I would like to address the pressing issue of climate change. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, or ACESA, has passed the U.S. House and is now in a number of different forms before the Senate. With the change in the administration and increased majorities in Congress, we had all hoped that the 111th Congress would act fast to implement a new climate bill to start controlling our pollution output like carbon dioxide. The House Bill (HR 2454), however, is replete with problems, as are the Senate versions currently being drafted. While it is significant that a house of Congress has, for the first time, passed a climate bill, it is also important that the bill that Congress ultimately enacts imposes a tax on energy in a way that will discourage excess energy use. That is because energy use analysis indicates that price increases are the most effective way to curtail energy use, improve the way we use energy, and decrease pollution.

The Problems with ACESA in Its Current Form
There are numerous problems with the 1428-page House Bill (HB)1, so I do not attempt to address all of them. Rather, I will highlight three main areas that need to be corrected in a final bill if it is to be effective:

ACESA implements cap & trade tax and financial derivative system instead of a simple carbon tax
Emissions trading, also known as "cap & trade" is a way of controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. Under "cap & trade", the government sets a limit, or "cap" on the total amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued permits that give them the right to emit a certain percentage of that amount of pollutant ("credits" or "allowances"). The total amount of credits or allowances cannot exceed the cap. Companies that need to increase their emission allowance can buy credits from other companies who don’t need all of their credit because they pollute less. This transfer is the "trade." Thus, companies have a financial incentive to reduce the amount of pollution they emit and a disincentive to exceed their set allowance. ACESA includes a cap & trade system where the certificates would be issued through an auction. By requiring companies to buy their certificates, the government forces them to pay for the "right" to pollute. When he was campaigning for the presidency, candidate Obama promised that under his cap and trade plan, 100% of the certificates would be auctioned - in other words, no one would get a free ride to pollute. Unfortunately, the house bill only requires 15% of the emissions certificates to be auctioned, or paid for, during the first year. That figure will increase to over 70% by 2030. Obviously, this reduced auction amount is a major disappointment to those of us who want to see polluters, not the public, bear the financial burden of their pollution. The reduced auction amount isn’t the only problem with the cap & trade provision in the bill. Although cap and trade systems can be effective, they are also susceptible to abuse. Opportunists are able to take advantage of the complexity of the mechanism to "game the system." To curb this potential problem, the House Bill sets up an oversight committee under the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to regulate hedge fund and other derivative-related aspects of cap & trade. However, it is only a cursory oversight arrangement and there is legitimate concern that it would not prevent market manipulation, which in turn could lead to a new economic bubble in this new speculative market and ultimately hurt the U.S. economy. Cap & trade tax schemes have already been exposed in Europe.3 All of these problems with the cap & trade approach could be eliminated by implementing a simple carbon tax.2

ACESA Eliminates EPA Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon dioxide
The House Bill is also problematic because it proposes to strip EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.4 This authority was only recently recognized by the United States Supreme Court, and EPA is only now moving toward exercising it; however, the House Bill would reverse that progress. At least one analysis of the House Bill indicates that this proposed deauthorization of the EPA would mean that 47 coal plants will be able to be built without EPA regulation. Clearly, that outcome is contrary to any meaningful goal to reduce carbon emissions.

ACESA Funds coal and nuclear energy more heavily than increased efficiency and renewables
Finally, the proposed funding under the bill for new technologies has misplaced priorities and incentives. Under the House Bill, $60 billion would be allocated for "clean coal" carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. CCS is a technology that would capture the carbon coming out of the coal stack and then sequester it so that it does not get into the atmosphere. There are a number of different possibilities in the process of being developed, but none has been demonstrated on a commercial scale, and it is not clear that CCS will be economically practical. Yet, this is the largest chunk of money directly listed in the bill for any one technology. While energy efficiency and renewable energies get $90 billion by 2025, that is only a fraction of the amount that coal and nuclear energy will get. The decision to disproportionately encourage these two technologies with financial aid and incentives in a "clean energy" bill is simply baffling. And here’s the kicker - these two technologies, coal CCS and nuclear, are so expensive (in the range of 25-35 cents per kilowatt-hour for new units) that if we put our dollars into them, they will suck so many dollars away from energy efficiency and renewables (in the range of 2-25 cents per kilowatt-hour) that there would not be enough money to solve the climate solutions we desperately need.

In summary, here is what needs to happen to make these bills a positive force: 1) restructure cap & trade tax or replace it with a simple carbon tax; 2) do not remove the Clean Air Act authority from the EPA; and 3) re-design this bill to fund the technologies that are truly clean.

[1]Available at http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090701/hr2454_house.pdf
[2]See http://carbontax.org
[3]Arizona Daily Star (AP), Fight Against Global Warming Spawning New Type of Crime: Carbon-Permit
Fraud, 8/22/09, p. A12, http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/news/305938.php
[4]See analysis at http://www.psr.org/take-action/senateletter-climate-legislation.html (c:nuke\globalwarming\ArticleOnCap&TradeTaxProblems.wpd,090907)

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Great News for Arizona and Renewable Energy!!

After two more days of public hearings and nearly three years, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), on November 1st, passed the final rule, establishing a new Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) that sets the goal and sets up a funding mechanism for 15% of a utility's power resources to come from renewable sources by the year 2025. The current goal was just over 1% by 2007.

Some members tried to pass amendments that would have weakened the rule and/or sent it back to the Attorney General's office for yet another review. In the end, the proponents of reason and "light" prevailed and the measure passed by a vote of four in favor and one against.

Let's celebrate this accomplishment.

Also, please email a quick thank you to the following commissioners for their support of renewable energy. They include:

You can also send them a written thank you note at:

Arizona Corporation Commission
1200 West Washington
Phoenix, AZ 85007-2996

Thank you to all of you who have taken action over the years – sent emails, signed postcards, petitions, showed up at meetings, wrote letters to the editor, etc. – to help make this happen. Your efforts have and continue to make a difference for Arizona.

Jon Findley
Energy Chair
Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter

and

Sandy Bahr
Conservation Outreach Director
Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter

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