Vote Solar’s Statement on the Salt River Project Coolidge Gas Plant Expansion Concession
Last week, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) approved an amended Certificate of Environmental Compatibility (CEC) for the Salt River Project’s (SRP) Coolidge Expansion Project. This will expand SRP’s fossil fuel gas plant by 575 megawatts. The project was approved after two years of the commission and court voting against the project because of its potential impacts on the nearby historically-Black community of Randolph.
The project was approved, in part, due to the recent settlement between SRP and the Randolph community. In that settlement, SRP agreed to increase its investment in the town near the gas plant. The Randolph community, who fought valiantly for two years against this project, accepted the concessions because of the benefits offered by the settlement.
The recent developments surrounding the proposed expansion in Coolidge highlight a concerning pattern where utilities prioritize their own interests over the well-being of the public. Despite previous denials and legal battles, SRP ultimately obtained what it wanted, while the Randolph community had to endure a two-year struggle. The Randolph community should not have been put in this position in the first place. As a historically-Black town, they have already endured decades of racism, redlining, and environmental injustice. This fight added to the environmental racism already present in that area of Arizona.
While SRP continues to contribute to the power imbalance between utilities and the general public in Arizona, the $23.75 million investment in the community and the commitment to reduce the number of generating units are positive steps. However, it is crucial to question whether this was the most prudent use of resources.
SRP’s claim of responding to Arizona’s load growth raises doubts about the necessity of the new plant, particularly as it was not included in an integrated resource plan. It is essential for utilities to demonstrate the genuine need for such expansions and ensure transparent decision-making processes that prioritize the public’s best interests.
The Sierra Club’s assertion that the ACC approval of the project decision is “unlawful” underscores the need for stricter oversight and scrutiny of utility actions. Utilities should not be allowed to manipulate established processes to achieve their own goals at the expense of the public’s well-being.
This case serves as a reminder that continued vigilance and advocacy are necessary to ensure that utilities act in the best interest of the communities they serve. Efforts to hold utilities accountable and push for transparent decision-making must persist in safeguarding the rights and interests of the public, especially frontline communities.