Barber sides with haze & coal in Cochise County– not EPA


Aepco-fd5by Pamela Powers Hannley

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with keeping our air and water clean. Clean air and water are tied directly to public health and long-term well-being of our citiznes, so you'd think everyone would be on board with these goals. 

Not so much.

Keeping air and water clean costs money. Capitalist polluters prefer low costs and high profits, and consequently, they fight EPA regulations at every level (particularly in the halls of Congress) or try to get someone else (like taxpayers) to clean up their subsequent messes.

Arizona has multiple coal-fired power plants. The EPA recently reviewed the Apache Generating Station operated by Arizona Electric Power Cooperative (AEPCO) in Cochise, Arizona and recommended extensive upgrades– like $160-200 million worth– to reduce emissions and minimize haze in Southern Arizona. AEPCO wants to make less extensive upgrades– like $21 million worth– and threatens to raise rates on consumers 20% if the EPA insists on continuing their quest for reduced emissions and haze in the valley near the Cochise Stronghold. 

In a raucus public hearing, the people of Cochise County, said, "Hell, no!" to the EPA back in August. Environmental activists at this meeting were woefully outnumbered, and some were even booed when they spoke in favor of the EPA recommendation to the crowd of 250-300 people. Is it surprising that Bensonites prefer haze over the Chiricahuas? NO. What is Congressman Ron Barber's position? Keep reading after the jump.


In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked in AEPCO's PR department in the early 1980s. I had been in Arizona for only a year when I landed that job. Previously, I had worked for an upscale graphic and product design firm in Worthington, Ohio, a wealthy suburb of Columbus. Richardson/Smith was the kind of place with offices in a Tudor carriage house, with a corporate jet that took us to New York City or Chicago with less than 24 hours notice, with fresh Maine lobster flown in for corporate parties, with clients like Exxon, Bank One, and Texas Instruments.

Going to work at AEPCO– which was run by Mormons, cowboys, and retired military in 1982– was a huge culture shock for me. AEPCO was the kind of place where they did a time/motion study to see if they should switch from rotary telephones to push button phones– and decided not to spend the money!

When I was at AEPCO, the EPA was the devil. There was constant whining about the clean air controls that the EPA required AEPCO to put on its then relatively new stacks (Units 2 and 3 in this report). When distribution co-ops like Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Co-op in Wilcox or their customers complained about AEPCO's rates (which were much higher than Tucson Electric Power's [TEP] dirty power plant rates), AEPCO's management blamed the EPA. Those were tough times for AEPCO because they were not terribly competitive. Instead of looking at poor management by the Michelob for Lunch Bunch (yup, that's what we called them, and you can guess why), the EPA was scapegoated. Eventually, the Michelob for Lunch Bunch was ousted, the Board of Directors temporarily took over, and the AEPCO turned around. Given the strong opposition to the EPA's recommendations, Cochise County residents haven't forgotten the 1970s-80s.

In a letter to the EPA, dated November 21 (below), Barber asked the EPA to back down and consider AEPCO's cheaper proposal. This is a politically expedient move for Barber, since his recent Congressional opponent Marth McSally took Cochise County.

But is this a smart move in the long term? Yes, the EPA's recommendation is very expensive, but if all coal-fired power plants were required to clean up, there would be a level playing field in pricing. I can see why Cochise County residents don't want to go back to the 1980s– when they were paying more than TEP customers, when they had excess capacity that they couldn't sell because of the price, when "dirty" electricity was cheap and "clean" electricity was expensive. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't "dirty" energy be more expensive? When will Congress factor in the public health costs of pollution when they make decisions– instead of just looking at business costs and who's voting for whom? 

EPA from Rep Barber_Page_1-sm72


EPA from Rep Barber_Page_2-sm72


  1. Why don’t you moro..s read this poorly written article again and note that the plant is actually owned by the cooperative… meaning, this is not a reach company who is going to pay for the “dirty” air, instead mostly poor ratepayers (cooperative members) will have to pay… Not to mention that the most likely outcome will be the closing of the plant and 200 local jobs would be lost… Wouldn’t it be better to let the plant to continue and let the cooperative to recover the money and build a new cleaner generation as the investment in the old plant is being recovered (please note that the plant was approved by every government agency, does this mean anything?). BTW I live in the area and never seen this plant produce this much steam, usually it is 5% of what you see in the picture… If you people would not be so ignorant and st…d you would probably know that your solar and wind power is just a scam of your green friends who is making huge amounts of green while people are suffering and the economy goes to she…t. For these of you who believe in global warming; did you know that the sum of all of the energy produced by mankind equals just 1/6000th of the solar energy absorbed by our planet… so much for warming up the planet, DAH!!! I wish you all go to China and live in socialism there, isn’t this what you really want…

  2. Legalize Cannabis For personal, private and industrial use and problem solved.

    This is not a joke, this plant can change everything but the big oil companies and paper mills, cotton growers and numerous other companies like logging companies do not want you to know because it would cut into their profits and be more economical and sustainable and ecologically sound.

  3. Really? If you bothered to read the proposed rule you would have discovered that the $200 million would result in absolutely no perceptible difference in regional haze. Furthermore, the haze issue is not a health related matter. So, what you support is the rural residents of Arizona paying a significantly higher price for their energy with zero benefit. Like so many others with similar views, you want environmental regulation regardless of the costs and as long as others are paying the bill. Given the dedication exhibited in your article, It would be interesting to know whether you have opted for an all electric vehicle, or whether you have opted for evap-cooling instead of air conditioning. Perhaps you have installed solar units or purchased solar credits from the local IOU. Surely one or more of these apply! Yes? Maybe you have contributed to a tax exempt organization that sets aside rain forrest for the good of global warming. Yes? Please tell us you are doing more than simply suggesting SOMEONE ELSE pay higher electric rates. Please!

  4. One of those terms that changed my way of understanding the world was “externalities,” where you create problems for others but don’t pay to take care of them. That’s what dirty power plants do. People pay with their health, and any costs of cleaning up pollution are taken care of by the taxpayer. The polluter shouldn’t pass the costs onto others. You’re absolutely right, if AEPCO paid to deal with the problems it caused, cleaner energy would become more attractive.

  5. These standards affect not only visibility and thus tourism, but people’s health and child development. Shameful that Barber would side with the cheap coal faction on this matter.

  6. P.S. I was going to link AEPCO’s website to this story, but apparently it has been hijacked. Hmmm… Should we trust the opinion of a business that is not paying attention at that very basic level? Just sayin’.