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Conservationists: SRP natural gas plant expansion bad for both climate and ratepayers

The Arizona Corporation Commission has approved a permit that will allow Salt River Project to expand a natural gas plant near Coolidge.

That followed a settlement the utility reached with local residents, but not everyone is happy with the commission’s vote.

Although SRP has invested heavily in renewable energy, it says that keeping air conditioners on during peak hours remains a difficult challenge.

It plans to invest nearly a billion dollars into the Coolidge plant, to help meet the demand for power as the Valley continues to grow.

Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club says the project will help advance climate change and cost ratepayers money.

"The price of gas you know is very volatile, it goes up and down and costs ratepayers a lot. With renewables you don’t have to worry about that fuel price," Bahr said.

The utility has made design changes to the plant and reduced the number of gas turbines from 16 to 12, but she says it’s unclear how long they will be in use.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.