Analysis: Passage of “Clean Energy” initiative would have negligible impacts on Arizona air quality, asthma rates


CONTACT: Matthew Benson

June 18, 2018

Regulations may worsen air pollution in metro Phoenix as utilities are forced to rely more heavily on gas plants to replace shuttered Palo Verde nuclear plant. The first independent, expert analysis of the “Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona” ballot initiative finds it would have virtually no measurable impact on either air quality or public health for most Arizonans.

The initiative would cement in the Arizona Constitution a mandate that public utilities derive at least 50 percent of their power from renewable sources, excluding nuclear, by 2030. Passage of the regulatory scheme, which mirrors what is already the law in California, is expected to double electricity rates paid by the average APS household.

Now, a new study by Washington, D.C.-based NERA Economic Consulting finds the initiative “cannot be expected to improve reported levels of ozone pollution in areas where most Arizonans live,” and will have “no measurable impact on asthma rates.” “The ‘Clean Energy’ initiative is a fraud,” said Matthew Benson, spokesman with Arizonans for Affordable Electricity. “The initiative campaign is spending millions of dollars to fool Arizona voters into believing California-style energy regulations will clear our air and improve public health. This new analysis finds the proposal will do neither.”

Among the study’s findings:
Emissions from coal-fired power plants across Arizona are “miniscule” contributors to
ground-level ozone in metro Phoenix, accounting for an estimated .7 percent of total

Passage of the initiative regulations “may have no effect at all on Phoenix’s ability to
meet EPA’s air pollution health standard.”

This is because the vast majority of ozone pollution in Arizona’s largest counties results from
vehicle emissions, dust from construction and land use activity, and natural or uncontrollable
sources such as wildfires. According to the study, “The initiative cannot be expected to improve
reported levels of ozone pollution in areas where most Arizonans live because it targets power
plant emissions that, in total, already have very little impact on the Phoenix area’s ozone levels, and which the initiative would reduce by only a miniscule amount.”

Passage of the initiative “has almost no prospect of altering whether Arizona’s air is deemed safe from a public health perspective,” according to the analysis. “The changes in ozone estimated to result from the initiative are also so small in absolute terms that they will not affect numbers of emergency room visits for asthma or other illness on high ozone days to any measurable degree.”

Ironically, the study suggests the initiative may actually worsen asthma rates in urban areas.
This is because of an expected increase in ozone-forming emissions – such as nitrogen oxide
(NOx) – as natural gas plants must be built or increasingly relied upon to provide reliable, 24/7 power generation off-setting the expected loss of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.
Though Palo Verde is the nation’s largest source of emission’s free electricity, the initiative does not define nuclear as a clean, renewable energy source. Palo Verde executives have consistently said passage of the initiative regulations would render the plant uneconomical and force its closure by the mid-2020s –decades earlier than currently planned.

“These are damning findings for an initiative campaign built on promises of clean air and better
public health,” said Benson. “Beware the fast talk and too-good-to-be-true claims of an
initiative based on lies. Like any huckster, California billionaire Tom Steyer and his out-of-state strategists will be long gone after the election when Arizona voters realize he sold them an expensive bill of goods.”