By Ryan Randazzo |Arizona Republic
Salt River Project’s bid to expand a Coolidge natural-gas plant was rejected again by state regulators Monday after the utility requested a special meeting for reconsideration of the April vote that went against the project.
Commissioners initially rejected the expansion in a 4-1 vote in April. Commissioner Justin Olson was the lone regulator favoring the expansion.
Commission Chair Lea Márquez Peterson initially voted against the project but on Monday favored a rehearing.
Democrats Anna Tovar and Sandra Kennedy maintained their opposition to the plant, as did Republican Jim O’Connor.
People living in the historically Black community of Randolph, an unincorporated area adjacent to the Coolidge Generating Station, have opposed the expansion. So has Sierra Club. About two dozen opponents of the plant erupted in cheers at the vote Monday when the expansion was denied for a second time.
After more than two hours, including a lengthy executive session closed to the public, O’Connor created some drama by withholding his vote until three others had given their position.
He said the issue was likely to wind up in court either way, with the losing side filing suit, so he favored not burdening the commission staff with a rehearing of the controversial issue.
“The Corporation Commissioners who voted to stop the plant showed tremendous courage in standing up to SRP’s attempts to politicize what should have been a straightforward rejection of a rushed proposal with little substance. The people of Arizona are the real winners, and a government body like SRP should never propose spending $1 Billion of public money without even doing an RFP to consider alternatives. Ultimately, I am so happy for the people of Randolph who finally stopped a terrible project from further polluting their historic community.”
Court Rich, Rose Law Group Co-Founder, Senior Partner, and Director of Renewable Energy Law