Yesterday, U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S (R-AZ), a member of the House Subcommittee on Water and Power, was joined by subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) for an oversight field hearing in Phoenix, Arizona. The hearing, entitled "Evaporating Prosperity: How Federal Actions Are Driving Up Water and Power Costs, Threatening Jobs and Leaving Arizonans High and Dry" focused on proposed federal regulations that pose a threat to the state's water security.
Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) began the hearing saying, "People throughout Arizona and across the nation are facing tough times as a result of the federal government overstepping its boundaries and imposing arbitrary regulations. Today's hearing, held at my request, underscores the dire ramifications of proposed regulations and bureaucratic red tape which threaten the strength and health of Arizona communities."
He went on to say, "Water is a precious commodity, and resources throughout the West are stretched thin. The federal government should be working with Arizonans, not against them, to ensure an abundance of water and power. Today's testimonies provided a simple solution for the federal government: Get out of the way and abandon the junk science and political volleying that has shaped this Administration's resource policies." Congressman Gosar's full opening statement can be found here.
Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee, added, "A generation ago, the principal objective of federal water and power policy was to create an abundance of both. But that objective has been abandoned in favor of radical and retrograde ideology that has caused government-created shortages and economic devastation throughout the West. The threatened destruction of Arizona's water and electricity supplies by federal fiat would leave local communities at the mercy of catastrophic wildfires and economic ruin."
Highlighting the effects of the current Administration's policies, Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) emphasized, "At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups. The Navajo Generation Station ties into nearly every aspect of the Arizona economy. Shutting it down would cause a catastrophic rippling effect causing massive increases in power, water, and food costs."
At the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (CA-04) and Arizona Congressmen Paul Gosar and David Schweikert heard from witnesses about how federal actions and regulations are threatening Arizona's jobs and economy, and driving up the costs of water and power in the State. Multiple witnesses focused on the federal government's mismanagement of Arizona national forests. Rural Arizona has been victim to some of the worst wildfires in U.S. history. Last year, nearly one million acres of Arizona's forests burned. Over half of that acreage was charred by the Wallow Fire, the largest fire in Arizona's history. This year's fire season is expected to be difficult as well. Since late April, over 45,000 acres of forest in Arizona have been destroyed due to wildfires.
Arizona State Senator Gail Griffin said, "In my district that borders Mexico we have to deal with tires burning in landfills across the border. Arizona is a desert and we have wind and dust storms that are Acts of God and out of our control. The one size fits all policies that are expected from the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies/departments do not work here. We in Arizona know how to properly manage our lands, our water, our air and our lives. State authority and states right are being usurped by federal agencies."
Andrew Groseta, President Arizona Cattlemen's Association went on to say, "It is long past due that we take immediate action to correct federal land management to create a balanced model that recognizes communities, economies, industry, recreation, habitat and wildlife. It is possible and can be done but we have to be sure that it is driven by local residents that live and work with the consequences of decisions made from DC. The bottom line is our forest desperately needs on the ground management and for that we need man to return to our forest with chainsaws and cows. It is imperative that we actively manage the renewable resources that we have been provided before we allow Mother Nature to do it for us."
The Committee also heard from witnesses regarding the Environmental Protection Agency proposed regulations on the Navajo Generation Station (NGS), an issue Congressman Gosar has been intently focused on since coming into office. The federal action threatens over 3,000 jobs and could cost Arizona over $20 billion in lost gross state product. As a chief supplier of electricity in the State and the power supply to the Central Arizona Project, Arizona's primary water delivery system, NGS's closure would increase costs for water and power consumers and endanger current and future Indian water right settlements.
State Representative Amanda A. Reeve, Chairwoman of the Arizona House Committee on the Environment testified said "ADEQ and EPA fundamentally disagree on what constitutes as BART. According to ADEQ, "Low-NOx burners" and "over fire air" technologies, both of which NGS recently had installed, are adequate emission controls. However, EPA is requiring that facilities retrofit with selective catalytic reduction ("SCR") technologies, which is far more costly than those technologies of which ADEQ approves. ADEQ states that studies of the SCR technologies do not provide sufficient evidence that it is superior or more effective in reducing emissions and improving visibility."
Governor Gregory Mendoza of the Gila River Indian Community in Sacaton, Arizona said "NGS supplies approximately 95% of the power to deliver the CAP water to the Community and other CAP customers. Requiring NGS to install and operate SCR technology as BART will both significantly increase the cost of CAP water and decrease the future revenue generated for the Development Fund. These two impacts will substantially undermine the benefits that the Community specifically bargained for and relied upon in agreeing to settle our water claims and claims against the United States."
John Sullivan, Associate General Manager & Chief Resources Executive of the Salt River Project testified that "The Navajo Generating Station and the mine provide far reaching economic benefits to the state of Arizona as a whole. The NGS and the mine will contribute over $20 billion to Arizona's economy between 2011 and 2044, and contribute over 3,000 jobs each year throughout the state. In addition to providing electricity for millions of customers in the Southwest, NGS also provides 95% of the power used by CAWCD to pump water from the Colorado River to central Arizona. It provides funds for the repayment of the cost of constructing the Central Arizona Project (CAP), and for water rights settlements with multiple central Arizona Indian Tribes. In short, NGS cannot be simply or easily replaced."
The members thoroughly discussed the Memorandum for Power Marketing Administrators issued by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu on March 16, 2012, that outlines four specific directives that could lead to higher energy costs. Witnesses at the hearing stated that the memo raises serious concerns about the manner and scope of how the PMAs' mission would dramatically change. These actions would increase energy rates and shift costs to consumers that receive no benefit.
Tom Jones Chief Executive Officer of the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association highlighted the fact, "The Memo's general policy guideline to "modernize" PMA operations will needlessly undermine their historic partnership with not-for-profit electric cooperatives and others in providing affordable and reliable electricity that benefits consumers and taxpayers. This longstanding partnership in providing access to power produced at federal dams is guided by a statutory requirement that electricity is sold at "the lowest possible cost to consumers.'"