EPA Wants Coal Plant To Clean Up

January 18, 2013

Photo courtesy National Park Serivce.
Navajo Generating Station.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Environmental Protection Agency has given the west’s largest coal-fired power plant 10 years to install pollution controls that could cost as much as a billion dollars. The Navajo Generating Station’s owners say that may not be enough time.

The plant sits about than 20 miles northeast of the Grand Canyon. The EPA says the proposed technology added to the plant’s already installed pollution controls would cut emissions 84 percent and improve visibility at the canyon and other parks in the Southwest.

Environmentalists are calling this announcement the beginning of a new era.

"This coal plant is Arizona’s largest single source of climate destructing pollution, which for more 40 years has harmed human health," said Andy Bessler, spokesman for the Sierra Club.

Bessler says he’s concerned about the additional time given to Navajo Generating Station. But the plant’s operator and co-owner, the Salt River Project, says it will need that time to resolve uncertainties, like its lease with the Navajo Nation. The owners have been anticipating this EPA retrofit decision with trepidation, saying the cost could shut them down.

The plant and the coal mine that supplies it provide about 800 jobs to tribal members. Both Navajo and Hopi tribes also earn royalties.

"We’re encouraged that there is some flexibility that’s been provided," said Scott Harelson, spokesman for the Salt River Project. "On the other hand the emission rate that the EPA has proposed appears to be the most stringent in the nation."

The government built the plant 40 years ago to provide Colorado River water and electricity for Phoenix and Tucson. It also supplies electricity for California and Nevada.