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Susan Bitter Smith: EPA clean-air plan could threaten Arizona’s power supply

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WASHINGTON — The Arizona Corporation Commission chair told federal regulators there is “simply no way” the state can comply with proposed new clean-air rules without “irreparable disruption” to the state power system’s reliability.

Susan Bitter Smith’s testimony to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came Thursday at that agency’s hearing on the Clean Power Plan proposed by another federal office, the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bitter Smith claimed that in order to meet the goals in the EPA proposal, which targets greenhouse-gas emissions, every coal-fired power plant in the state that is not on tribal land would have to shut down by 2020. That would drive up costs to consumers and leave the state’s power system in a precarious position, she testified.

“If we had to meet the EPA’s standards as they’re required right now … we couldn’t keep the lights on in the state,” said Bitter Smith, part of a panel testifying on environmental regulations and electric reliability.

The EPA said in a statement Friday that the agency is listening to all concerns about the Clean Power Plan before issuing a final rule, which is expected this summer.

“EPA has received more than 3.5 million comments on the proposed Clean Power Plan,” the agency’s statement said. “We will take all comments – including issues related to reliability – into careful consideration as we work toward a final rule.”

The proposal, released last summer, aims to cut nationwide carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, with specific emission-reduction targets set for each state.