Arizona Officially Sues EPA Over Clean Power Plan

Arizona is now one of 24 states officially suing the Environmental Protection Agency over President Obama’s flagship carbon-emissions-reduction initiative, the Clean Power Plan.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who has been talking about suing the EPA for months, announced that his office and the Arizona Corporaton Commission jointly signed onto the federal lawsuit.

“I pledged to fight back against federal overreach, and our office has kept that promise,” Brnovich wrote in a statement.

Not only will the plan cause a spike in consumer energy prices, he and other plaintiffs contend, but it’s an example of federal overreach and, as such, infringes on states’ sovereignty:

“[The plan] goes beyond the bounds set by the United States Constitution, and otherwise is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with the law,” plaintiffs write in the lawsuit.

Widely regarded as the centerpiece of Obama’s environmental legacy, the plan aims to curb climate change by reducing C02 emissions by 30 percent (based on 2005 levels) in 15 years.

Each state is assigned an emissions-reduction target based on a formula — Arizona is required to cut emissions by 52 percent — and must design a plan for meeting the target by both increasing the efficiency of existing plants and by increasing reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources like solar and wind.  When the draft plan was announced in 2013, Obama famously said: “In America, we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children” —  but that hasn’t stopped critics from claiming the opposite.

The Clean Power Plan “would result in dramatically higher electricity bills and significantly less reliable service for families, businesses, hospitals, and schools across America,” the AG’s office states.

“We need to ensure that this kind of federal overreach does not impact our rate payers,” Susan Bitter Smith, Corporation Commission chair, said recently. “This ligation is one important tool the state has to guarantee Arizona’s energy resources will continue to be affordable and reliable.” Supporters of the plan, however, say not only are these reliability arguments unfounded, but any cost-benefit analysis of the plan needs to take into account more than a (potential) rise in utility prices. Consider the benefits of the Clean Air Act, they say.

As scientist Alan Lockwood explained in the Atlantic, “the overwhelming benefits obtained from compliance with the [Clean Air Act] far outweighed the costs of implementation.”

Many argue the Clean Power Plan will follow the same pattern:

The Union of Concerned Scientists says “the combined climate and health benefits of the Clean Power Plan will far outweigh the costs of implementing it [and] will deliver billions of dollars in net benefits each year.”

The group estimates that by 2030, the country will have saved between $26 billion and $45 billion, with health benefits accounting for $12 billion to $34 billion of that. President Obama points out that after just one year of these new regulations, “up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided.”

Another cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that: “from the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan, American families will see up to seven dollars in health benefits.”
Sandy Bahr, director of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club, tells New Times recently that positioning the plan as a choice between our health and the economy is a false dichotomy:

"We need to start thinking of the Clean Power Plan as the beginning of “a new era of growth for affordable and safe clean energy sources that don’t fuel climate disruption and sicken our communities," she says.

"Arizona utilities and the coal purveyors, as well as some politicians, are acting as if the sky is falling and saying we cannot possibly meet the requirements of the Clean Power Plan; it will harm our economy. They are wrong," she writes in a recent op-ed article.

"The real and significant harm to Arizona and our economy is coming from climate change and inaction, not the Clean Power Plan."