EPA Rule Will Result in Closure of 750-MW Coal-Fired Unit

In an effort to reduce air pollution from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS)—a coal-fired power plant located near Page, Ariz.—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule on July 28 that will result in the permanent shutdown of one of NGS’s three units.

The EPA had issued an initial proposal in February 2013 but invited submittal of alternative proposals that would achieve the same or greater emissions reductions. A Technical Work Group (TWG) consisting of representatives from the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, Salt River Project (on behalf of itself and the other NGS owners), the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), and Western Resource Advocates submitted recommendations.

The final rule establishes a cap in nitrogen oxide emissions from the plant between 2009 and 2044 to improve visibility at 11 surrounding national parks and wilderness areas. Under the rule, the NGS operator can either shutter one unit or curtail power generation by a similar amount in 2019 and install selective catalytic reduction on two units in 2030.

The EPA’s final rule reflects major elements of the TWG proposal and is considered by some groups to be the best possible option.

“This alternative not only saves crucial jobs and keeps vital revenue on the Navajo Nation, but opens the door to new low-emitting energy development pursuant to the agreement,” said Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation EPA.

NGS is a 2,250-MW facility operated by Salt River Project—one of the largest public power utilities in the nation. The utility owns the plant along with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service Co., Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), Tucson Electric Power Co., and NV Energy.

Part of the emission reduction plan includes LADWP and NV Energy divesting ownership in the plant by the end of 2019, and closure of one 750-MW unit.

Acknowledging the importance of NGS to the region, the EPA, the DOI, and the Department of Energy signed a commitment last year to help develop clean, affordable, and reliable power, as well as sustainable water supplies, and economic development, while minimizing impacts on those who rely on NGS, including municipalities, tribes, and agricultural users.

“We are very pleased that EPA has accepted the TWG agreement,” said Steve Michel, chief counsel with Western Resource Advocates. “This agreement provides a wonderful example of how thoughtful people can work through their differences and develop an outcome that reduces regional haze, provides clean energy economic development, and addresses climate change.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)

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