Saturday, March 24, 2018

Power Generation for Generations to come - YES to Solar + Storage! NO to fossil fuels

TEP is proposing modernizing the Sundt Generating Station by replacing two 1950's era steam units with ten natural gas fired combustion engines. The purpose of the new engines is to ramp up more quickly and to balance the variability associated with solar and wind energy generation. But all that ramping spouts more pollution into the air than the current steam units.

TEP claims that these units are part of a larger goal for 30% renewable energy by 2030, but gas fired engines should not be equated with clean, renewable power from wind and solar. The RICE units are fossil-fuel based generating units that would create significant greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality, the project expects to cause an increase in emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter (fine particles PM2.5 and coarse particles PM10) and volatile organic compounds.

Over a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the US are from power plants.

TEP needs to stop promoting the idea of "clean gas." Just stop. It reeks of Big Oil rhetoric!  Burning fossil fuel still emits about 60 percent as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal. Fracking for gas releases vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps 80 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide pollution. Gas extraction harms wildlife, disrupts ecosystems, and has been proven to contaminate water and even cause earthquakes throughout the U.S.

Neighborhoods in southeast Tucson have suffered from decades of coal and gas pollution from the Sundt plant. Pollution from the Irvington Campus has had negative health effects for generations. Now TEP is proposing a plant that will emit hazardous air pollutants that are harmful to our health, including benzene, fluorene, naphthalene, and toluene. This proposal will cause a net increase in pollution from particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and sulfur hexafluoride.

And none of this is necessary! Utility-scale battery storage can provide the fast acting support that TEP needs to incorporate intermittent renewables like wind and solar even faster than gas units.

TEP claims that the RICE units are the most cost-effective option to incorporate intermittent renewables, but did they even consider clean alternatives to the RICE units? By pairing batteries with solar resources, utilities can use tax credits to reduce their costs. The prices for solar-plus-storage and windplus-storage systems have been plummeting, leading to record-breaking low prices in energy projects in other states. Colorado recently beat a record that Arizona held for the lowest-cost solar-plus-storage project. The median project in Colorado’s energy solicitation was 20% lower than TEP’s NextEra solarplus-storage project.

Sundt Generating Station represents a prime opportunity to choose renewable resources instead of building brand new fossil-fuel reliant projects. We have a great opportunity here! TEP’s service territory sits in one of the richest renewable resource zones in the country. Renewable energy creates far more jobs than fossil fuels. According to the Department of Energy, Arizona’s clean energy and energy efficiency industries already employ nearly 5 times as many people as the fossil fuel industry, and there is much room to grow. So why isn't TEP doing what's best for Tucson's economy and health?

TEP’s target to serve only 30% of its load with renewable energy by 2030 isn't nearly ambitious enough to protect Arizona’s air and water and to limit the impacts of climate change. It's time for our governing officials to demonstrate some strong leadership and do what's right for the people of Tucson and the future of our city.

The time for action is NOW - while we still have this window of opportunity. We can make a difference. Our city council can make a difference with some bold leadership! This is something concrete we can all do to leave a better life for our children in Tucson. 

Actions to take in March 2018
1.   Contact your Pima County Supervisor.  Ask them to deny TEP’s request for increased air pollution limits for the proposed installation of ten gas-fired Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines (RICE) at the SundtGenerating Plant in Tucson. Most County officials claim that the County’s hands are tied, and that the decision is up to the EPA. But the County’s Department of Environmental Quality is holding public hearings, and even added one on March 28.  
2.   Contact your City of Tucson Council member and Mayor Rothschild (see Ward maps) and ask them to deny TEP’s request for a special zoning designation (Planned Area Development – “PAD”) because TEP’s request for rezoning contradicts the Tucson General Plan’s call for:
(a)  Increased renewable energy sources;
(b)  Recruiting, retaining and expanding Tucson’s key economic sectors in renewable energy;
(c)  Increasing or promoting environmentally sensitive industry; and
(d)  “. . .[N]o compromise on principles of equity, fairness, justice, prosperity, livability, and environmental integrity.”
TEP should not be rewarded for having previously failed to comply with development standards.

3.   Join local neighbors, sustainable organizations, and the Sierra Club for a Rally and March on Wednesday, March 28.
4:15 p.m. Rally at TEP headquarters, 88 E Broadway.
March to the Pima County Public Works office, 201 N. Stone Ave, for…

4.   Pima County Department of Environmental Quality community meeting March 28, 2018, 5:30-6:30 p.m., at the Pima County Public Works Building, 201 N Stone basement Conference Room C, on TEP’s permit application.

Those unable to attend may submit written comments. Those who leave comments are qualified to appeal, but the comments must pertain to on how the permit meets the criteria for issuance prescribed in the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section § 49-481 of the Pima County Code.    

More information here:

The deadline to make public comments is THURSDAY. A well thought out public comment could stop the 10 gas-fired engines from being installed. But to be counted the comments MUST focus on how the permit doesn't meet the criteria for issuance prescribed in the Arizona Revised Statutes Section § 49-481 and Title 17 of the Pima County Code.
We need someone with the time and ability to comb through those government regulations to find inconsistencies in the revised statues or someone who has some knowledge in atmospheric science who can discuss how TEP's permit doesn't meet the Pima County Code air quality standards (like Ozone emissions). This will require an analytical mind and some time to do some research. Please, pass this onto any scientists or legal experts you know. This is our chance to save generations of Tucsonans from more toxic pollution.

Note: the codes do not include anything about greenhouse emissions, so the impact of climate change is not that is not a helpful argument for the public comments - but air quality is.

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