Amy Dominguez, Amy.Dominguez@sierraclub.org
Phoenix, AZ -- In a disheartening verdict, today the Maricopa County Superior Court ruled to uphold the Arizona Corporation Commission’s (ACC) decision to approve Salt River Project’s (SRP) revised proposal to expand the gas-fired Coolidge Generating Station in Pinal County, Arizona. The ruling comes after oral arguments concluded on Friday, January 12, 2024 regarding the lawsuit Sierra Club filed in September challenging the ACC’s decision.
In June 2023, the ACC made a rushed determination to approve the expansion of the gas-fired Coolidge Plant just one week after SRP proposed substantial changes to the project, including changes to the number and location of the gas turbines and the operations of those turbines. The ACC approved the revised project without holding a hearing or obtaining any evidence regarding the impact of these changes. The Commission should have held a new evidentiary hearing so that the Commission, stakeholders, and the public could understand and evaluate the need for the revised project and the environmental impacts of the revised project.
In its ruling, the Maricopa County Superior Court concluded that the Commission’s approval of SRP’s revised proposal to expand the Coolidge plant was supported by evidence despite the fact that the Commission did not hold an evidentiary hearing on the revised project, and that the Commission did not need to hold a new hearing on the revised project despite a line of Commission decisions indicating that substantial changes to a project require a new hearing. The Court also held that the Commission’s approval of the project did not violate due process, even though Sierra Club was denied an opportunity to question SRP witnesses who gave sworn statements at the Commission’s June 2023 meeting where the project was approved by the Commission. Previously, in January 2023, the Superior Court affirmed the Commission’s original decision to deny the permit for the project.
SRP’s proposed expansion would still increase air pollution that causes harmful impacts in the adjacent Black community of Randolph and throughout the region and state. The project would lock in decades of new air pollution, which will cause adverse health effects and increased healthcare costs.
“Today’s decision is deeply disappointing, and carries significant public health implications that Randolph residents will contend with each day that Coolidge spews its suffocating emissions,” said life-long Randolph resident Jeff Jordan. “We will be living with the decisions that Commissioners and County Courts have taken while our health is on the line, and they’re off the hook. Our community isn’t expendable, and that’s something I’ll make sure to continue to convey.”
“The Superior Court has given SRP a pass to act outside of process and procedure, and sets a precedent that utilities can get away with not following the rules,” said Sandy Bahr, Director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Community members will pay the price with their dollars and with their health, and SRP ratepayers will pay in their rates too, while SRP continues to act without consequence, and the Arizona Corporation Commission and now our county courts let them.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.