EPA public comment deadline is Jan. 6; outcome will affect state's Colorado River water users
Increased water and power costs for Arizona residents are at stake with the outcome of a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the Navajo Generating Station (NGS).
Early this year, the EPA issued a proposed rule that would require the coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Reservation to reduce emissions of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) for the stated purpose of decreasing visibility impairment at certain National Parks and Wilderness Areas. EPA proposed two alternatives but both require installation of new emission reduction equipment within the next five to 10 years.
The cost of either of the EPA's alternatives could exceed $1 billion and could result in plant closure. Without NGS, which provides more than 90% of the power required by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) to pump water from the Colorado River into the state, the price of water for residential, industrial, agricultural and tribal customers of CAP would rise dramatically. In addition, the loss of NGS would wreak financial hardship on the Navajo and Hopi, who depend on NGS for employment, lease payments and royalties.
As a result, the EPA also is considering alternative plans, which would achieve the same or better NOx reduction goals over the life of the power plant.
CAP, along with the Gila River Indian Community, Navajo Nation, SRP, Environmental Defense Fund, Western Resource Advocates and the U.S. Department of Interior created a Technical Work Group (TWG) to develop and submit an alternative NOx reduction plan that exceeds the EPA's proposed rule and controls increasing costs.
The TWG proposal calls for NGS to shut down one of the three power units by 2020 or accomplish equivalent reductions in emissions through changes in operations. The proposal also calls for the installation of new technology on the remaining two units by 2030 and the owners' complete withdrawal from NGS by 2044.
Should the EPA accept the TWG plan for NGS, CAP and its stakeholders would benefit significantly as the TWG plan provides certainty that stable and reliable power supplies are available for decades, delays the costs of new emission controls and ensures that CAP will continue to benefit from the sale of surplus NGS power to fund Arizona's repayment to the federal government for construction of the CAP system.
The EPA is accepting public comment until Jan. 6, 2014. Suggested letters can be found on the CAP website.
Comments can be sent via regular mail or email. Identify your comments by docket number: EPA-R09-OAR-2013-0009 and mail it to:
Anita Lee (Air-2)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9
75 Hawthorne St.
San Francisco, CA. 94105-3901
Or send it via e-mail with the same docket number to [email protected]