Supreme Court ruling against EPA hurts, may not hobble clean air in Arizona

Three more coal-burning plants are set to close over the next 10 years, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

By Morgan Fischer | Cronkite News

 When the Supreme Court ruled this summer that the EPA could not force power plants to move away from fossil fuels, advocates worried that the justices had removed the “most effective tool for regulating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

They’re still worried. But in Arizona, at least, some of those concerns have been eased by a market-driven shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy that has long been in the works at the power plants in the state.

“Coal plants are going out of business. They are not economically efficient anymore … those market forces are going to continue and probably accelerate.”

Jason Rylander, an attorney for Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity.

It was market forces that led SRP to close the coal-burning Navajo Generating Station in 2019, along with the nearby Kayenta mine, for whom NGS was its only coal customer. The utility said at the time that coal was no longer cost-effective compared to other fuels.

Three more coal-burning plants are set to close over the next 10 years, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. That includes the Springerville Generating Station – which produced the most carbon dioxide emissions of any facility in the state in 2020 – and the Coronado and Cholla plants.

“With or without this (Supreme Court) decision, the transition to clean energy is already happening in Arizona and across the country,” said Christina Cilento, an associate policy fellow for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. “That transition is actually driven in large part by private-sector decisions, market forces and, of course, regulation.”

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