PAGE -- A modest-sized Page audience this week seemed willing to excuse Congressman Paul Gosar for his decision to leave the 1st District.
The 30-some attendees at the Page Community Townhouse seemed more interested in resonating with Gosar's conservative and pro-business views. Democrats make up fewer than 30 percent of registered voters in Page, the site of the first town hall conducted by Gosar since he announced his decision to run in the 4th District in November. Republicans make up 36 percent.
The Doney Park Republican, who rode a wave of Tea Party support in 2010, seemed to pick up energy at the Wednesday night program on questions about energy. Navajo Generating Station, an electrical giant just east of Page, is facing a possible order for new pollution controls from by the Environmental Protection Agency this spring. The plant's operating agent, Salt River Project, has said it could close the 2,250-megawatt, coal-fired facility in a few years if controls to reduce haze over the Grand Canyon are too expensive.
L.A. IS THE PROBLEM
Page Mayor Bill Diak, a retired SRP business agent, asked Gosar about the issue.
Gosar said charts for years have shown the area's prevailing winds are from the southwest and northwest, blowing most NGS emissions toward New Mexico and Colorado. The plant is reportedly responsible for 4 to 5 percent of canyon haze.
"Where our problem is coming from is Los Angeles, and southern California...I'm really tired of easterners telling us westerners what's best for us," he said.
The plant powers pumps that send Central Arizona Project water south, and without it, costs to water customers in Phoenix would increase by 16 times, Gosar predicted. Water costs in Tucson would go up even higher, because 85 percent of Tucson's water comes from the CAP, he said.
If the plant closes, it would take 10 years to recover the lost energy, and probably from natural gas with increased prices, Gosar said. Wind or solar power are not acceptable alternatives, he said, adding, "Folks, this is what happens when you don't have an energy policy."
Besides, several Native American tribes are contractually bound to an operating NGS, Gosar said. He said he and Sen. Jon Kyl feel closure would be "completely detrimental to everything in Arizona."
INVEST IN DOMESTIC ENERGY
Page resident Brynn Johns also posed an energy question, asking Gosar why the U.S. continues to depend on its "enemies" for oil when domestic sources are available. Johns also works at NGS and chairs the Page Electric Utility board of directors.
Investing in domestic energy production and pipelines could build jobs paying $50,000 to $120,000 a year, Gosar said, pointing to his work toward beginning to restore the state's copper industry.
Gosar later received applause from pro-gun audience members for comments on behalf of the Second Amendment. Gosar also fielded questions about the loss of jobs overseas and runaway federal spending.
The night's first question dealt with his decision to run in the newly redistricted CD-4 in the fall. It came from Greenehaven resident Pat Beegle.
"Our district got cut in parts," Gosar said. "I would love to have this district back the way it was ... I wish I could represent both. I can't. It was the hardest choice I've had to make in my life."
Gosar said the redistricting amounts to gerrymandering and expects it to be challenged to the Supreme Court. The new 4th District, which runs from western Arizona through Prescott and south to take in parts of Pinal County, is heavily Republican. Alterations in the 1st District are expected to give Democrats a 9 percent majority.
Page, the second-largest municipality in Coconino County, has a voter registration of 3,656 that is 36 percent Republican, 34 percent independent or other parties and 29 percent Democratic, according to Patty Hansen, chief deputy county recorder.
WILL BE A WORKHORSE
Gosar urged the audience to consider that he will continue to represent Arizona interests on the House Natural Resources Committee if re-elected: "I will be that workhorse," he pledged.
Gosar's website said he recently voted for three offshore-energy bills that would increase American energy production, thus addressing rising gas prices in the state of Arizona and across the country. He said the bills are aimed at restarting offshore leasing, reversing the administration's effective moratorium on new offshore drilling, and putting the Gulf Coast back to work in searching for and developing energy.
Gosar later said he came away from the meeting with a positive impression of the local audience.
"They asked very dynamic questions, the people are intrigued, they want to know behind the scenes, they want to be engaged and they want to be part of the solution process," he said. "I love Page, I love Arizona and I love northern Arizona, because they get it."