DOI releases study of coal plant on Navajo land

Jan 18 2012 - 4:08pm


Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona.
Navajo Generating Station near Page, Arizona.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Requiring a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation to further regulate pollution would not force its retirement but would increase water rates for agricultural users and American Indian tribes by up to 16 percent, a study to be released Wednesday found.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been considering how to lower nitrogen oxide emissions from the Navajo Generating Station near Page. The power plant already has low-nitrogen oxide burners, but the EPA could mandate that the owners install more expensive technology.

The federal government created the 2,250-megawatt plant to ensure a low-cost water supply for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers the water through a series of canals to 80 percent of the state's population. It also ensures that water rights settlements with tribes are met.

A significant increase in the cost of power from the plant would affect settlements with some tribes and could bump up water rates between 13 percent and 16 percent, according to the study. The cost burden of additional retrofits or a shutdown would fall most heavily on those who get water from the canals because unlike the plant's other owners, which are utilities, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has no way to recover those costs, the study found.

Reclamation and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District rely on the plant for 92 percent of electricity needed for the canals, while other owners of the plant rely on it for between 9 percent and 26 percent of their electric supply.

The Interior Department has asked the EPA to hold off on a final decision for pollution controls under a rule meant to reduce visibility in pristine areas like the Grand Canyon while it analyzed the impacts of retrofitting the plant, a shutdown due to the cost of retrofits, or no action.

The study also looks at the cost of compliance with EPA rules, the impact to the Navajo and Hopi tribes, the impact on energy production and the remaining life of the plant. The study found any impacts from additional pollution controls to air quality are uncertain.

The EPA has said it would consider the study in making a determination on pollution controls, which is expected later this year.


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