SRP raises offer to Randolph residents for Coolidge gas plant expansion

Coolidge Generating Station

By Ryan Randazzo | Arizona Republic

Salt River Project officials said Friday they have few options to meet the growing demand for electricity in the Phoenix area and therefore must ask state utility regulators to reconsider a gas-plant expansion that was rejected last month.

“We are really doing this because of the need for reliability, the need for the (power) capacity here in the region,” said Bobby Olsen, SRP senior director of corporate planning, environmental services and innovation. “It’s critically short.”

The formal request to the Arizona Corporation Commission should be filed Monday, he said, and will highlight the problems SRP sees with trying to meet electricity demand in summer 2024 with any other resources besides the gas plant.

Voted down last month

The Corporation Commission voted 4-1 against expanding the Coolidge Generating Station, with commissioners saying SRP hadn’t considered alternatives and citing concerns from the 150-200 residents in the community of Randolph next to the plant.

The story of Randolph: A Black community blossomed in Arizona and then was choked by industrial development

Several Randolph residents, joined by Sierra Club, protested at the Corporation Commission the day of the vote and accused SRP of environmental racism for the plant’s impact in a historically Black community.

SRP says it will offer residents more

SRP has increased what it will offer in the way of concessions, and now says it is offering $18 million in mitigation efforts to the community of Randolph.

The additional concessions include $2 million for a community center in Randolph, a block wall to mitigate the sight and noise from the plant, and additional road paving to mitigate air pollution in the area, said Grant Smedley, SRP director of resource planning.

SRP also is offering additional money for home rehabilitation and energy-efficiency projects in the community.

Dianne Post, a lawyer for Randolph residents requested some of these items before the last decision, although she noted that not building the project was the preference.

Post said Friday that her clients were told by SRP that the utility would seek a reconsideration for the project, but she had not been briefed on exactly what new mitigation efforts SRP proposed.

“I need to read what they file and send it to my client,” Post said. “The clients drive the decision.”

Post said she is working on the case pro bono after being contacted by the NAACP to talk with Randolph residents.

“When I talked to them it was very clear an attorney was needed,” she said, adding that she tried to get other lawyers to take on the case. “I’m 75. I’m supposed to be retired.”

SRP officials said they felt the additional mitigation efforts are fair.

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