EPA war on coal threatens Tucson water supplyby Jonathan DuHamel on Aug. 13, 2012, under Energy, Politics
Much of Southern Arizona’s water supply comes via the Central Arizona Project (CAP) which takes water from the Colorado River at Lake Havasu, and distributes it over 300 miles of canal and 3,000 feet up in elevation to Tucson (see map below). Electricity for the 14 pumping stations comes from the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station (NGS) near Page, Arizona. That station supplies 2,250 megawatts from three 750-MW units. The coal comes from the Kayenta mine on the Navajo Reservation 78 miles southeast of the station. The mine is operated by Peabody Western Coal Company. The electric plant is under fire from the EPA, for among other things, air quality in the Grand Canyon. The plant may fall victim to the EPA’s war on coal (see here, here, here, and here for commentary.)
According to a report from KSL.com, “Owners of the Navajo Generating Station say an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to clear the air in the region’s national parks may push the plant into an unacceptable financial situation. They’ve indicated it could force a shutdown as early as 2017.” “A shutdown of the plant would put nearly 1,000 people out of work on the Navajo Indian Reservation that is already deeply mired in unemployment and poverty.” “The owners insist they cannot spend more than $1 billion on environmental improvements without a guarantee they’ll be allowed to operate beyond 2019. The owners are several public agencies and utilities, including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Tucson Electric Power and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.”
Critics allege that emissions from the plant contribute to regional haze. However, even if the plant builds the required upgrades, there is no guarantee that the change in haze would be noticeable.
According to information from the Salt River Project, one of the owners of the plant, “NGS complies with all federal air quality standards and emission limitations. Electrostatic precipitators capture 99% of the fly ash, which is recycled for use in concrete, cement and other construction materials. Limestone scrubbers remove over 90% of SO2 emissions. Installation of low NOx burners and separated overfire air technology reduces NOx emissions by approximately 40%.”
The new “haze” rule from EPA could cause NGS to shut down, eliminating a major contributor to the economy of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the city of Page, Coconino County, and the state of Arizona. And, a shutdown would stop the pumps supplying water to Southern Arizona. The EPA ‘haze” rule will cause three of five generators at the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant in northwest New Mexico to shut down also.
Remember, during the 2008 presidential campaign candidate Obama said, “that under his cap-and-trade plan, “if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.” (CNN) Also during the 2008 campaign Joe Biden said the Obama policy was “no coal plants here in America.” (Arizona Daily Star).
In contrast to Obama policy, Germany is building 23 new coal-fire plants. Although Germany is a leader in solar energy installation, they need the coal plants because they found that solar energy is unreliable and too expensive.
Maybe the war on coal is a plan to create jobs. Obama could hire thousands of people to form bucket brigades to move water along the CAP canal.