The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) recently voted to create a landmark process to evaluate the community and economic impacts of coal plant closures and the need for Just and Equitable Transition (JET) for communities hit hard by these closures. Part of the final determination in the rate case for Tucson Electric Power (TEP), this decision is the direct result of years of pressure from tribal and non-tribal citizens groups, including the San Juan Citizens Alliance, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Diné C.A.R.E., and Black Mesa Water Coalition, which are represented by ACLPI’s energy and environmental attorney Jennifer Anderson.
For decades, coal-burning power plants have provided a reliable economic backbone for communities across the Southwest, but as one plant closes after another, jobs, revenue and opportunities quickly evaporate — leaving few options and little hope behind. Five coal-burning power plants in northern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico surround the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe. Two plants have shuttered since 2019 and the remaining three’s closure dates are quickly approaching. There’s often little notice of the closure to surrounding communities who face devastating financial repercussions.
San Juan Citizens Alliance, Tó Nizhóní Ání, Diné C.A.R.E. and Black Mesa Water Coalition argue utility companies that own and operate the plants (including TEP) have a responsibility to assist affected tribes, cities, counties and towns following these economically devastating closures. Together, the groups have fought for JET plan, including intervening in rate cases filed by TEP and Arizona Public Service (APS), as well as ensuring a $144 million agreement between APS and the Navajo Nation includes all aspects of a JET plan.
ACC’s decision is a bold step toward holding utility companies accountable, following their long history of reaping profits and abandoning communities after abrupt power plant closures. Ultimately, ACC’s process could create the mechanism for crafting JET plans as our country shifts away from coal and toward a clean energy economy.
A staff attorney at ACLPI since 2018, Jennifer is an experienced energy and environmental lawyer who has spent years of her career advocating for clean air and water, renewable energy, energy efficiency and public access to government.