Arizona gas boost signals national emissions challenge

By Benjamin Storrow, Jason Plautz | 06/28/2024 06:36 AM EDT

The state’s move to expand a gas plant without review sets a dangerous precedent, according to environmentalists.

Smokestack emissions from a power plant.

An Arizona decision to expand an existing gas plant is raising concerns about emissions and surging electricity demand. bkking111/Flickr

A fight over a new gas plant in Arizona is exposing the challenges of greening the West’s power grid.

Electricity demand is climbing in the Grand Canyon State, driven by a combination of a growing population, climate-fueled heat waves and a robust economy — symbolized by a massive semiconductor under construction in Phoenix.

UniSource Energy Services, which serves parts of western and Southern Arizona, proposed expanding an existing gas plant to meet the need for additional electricity on its system. But in a twist, the power company proposed installing a collection of smaller turbines that effectively enable it to bypass a comprehensive state environmental review. The move was approved by state utility regulators earlier this month.


Environmentalists warn the decision sets a dangerous precedent — one that could allow power companies to run roughshod over Arizona’s environmental laws and exacerbate the very heat waves that are driving the need for more electricity.