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Denied again: ACC will not reconsider SRP gas plant expansion

Posted at 9:19 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-07 00:40:26-04

RANDOLPH, AZ — In a 3 to 2 decision Arizona Corporation Commission refused to reconsider or rehear salt River projects application to expand its natural gas plant in Coolidge.

The utility had been looking to commissioners to reverse its April decision which was 4-1 in rejection of the plant. At the time the commission said that SRP's evidence in the record was incomplete and did not give them enough information about cost analysis or environmental impact to make an informed decision.

On Monday, SRP needed to convince three of the five commissioners to reconsider its application. In the end, only one changed their mind. Commissioners Sandra Kennedy, Anna Tovar and Jim O'Connor maintained their 'no' votes. Commissioner Justin Olson continued to support SRP's bid but Chair Lea Marquez Peterson, who voted against the application in April voted to reconsider.

"I had concern when we voted in April about defects in the record but I think the vote today to allow them to rehear would allow them to update the record and work more collaboratively with the community," she said.

Several members of the historically Black community of Randolph, which sits next door to the plant, celebrated the decision. The community, which is surrounded by industrial businesses, has fought its expansion to 28 gas-fired turbines from the current amount of 12.

In the explanation of her vote, Commissioner Kennedy recalled the unjust reasons why Randolph exists in the first place.

"People in Randolph establish their community because they were not allowed or welcome anywhere else. Today Randolph is surrounded by the polluting industry because these people got discounted and overlooked," she said.

Prior to the special open meeting being called Olson as well as House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) and Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) all wrote letters urging the Commission to reverse the decision. They argued the reasons that the Commission gave for the rejection were not under their legal purview.

SRP offered a similar explanation in its application for a rehearing. Additionally, the utility maintains its stance that it needs the plant to fill in demand gaps as it brings on more renewable resources and that it may not be able to meet demand by Summer 2024 if the plant is not approved.

"This project is a very, very important part of SRP's plan and without its ability to integrate and bring on more renewable resources (plans are) at great risk," SRP attorney Albert Acken told commissioners.

But opponents say the ACC got the decision right the first time.

"Nothing in the record is changed," said Sierra Club attorney Court Rich. "SRP has not revealed something that you are missed in your initial analysis of this case."

In a statement SRP told ABC15 it is disappointed in the decision and "we believe there are substantial factual and legal errors in the ACC’s decision based on the record that was before them."

The company said it is evaluating "whether to seek judicial review."