The recent proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency by a group of stakeholders on the continued operation of the Navajo Generating Station offers a workable balance between economic and environmental concerns around the plant. The station is one of the largest producers of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in the country but also the principal source of power for the Central Arizona Project.

The importance of water to our region cannot be overstated, and having access to this resource at a viable cost is vital to our quality of life and economic development. The EPA should approve the proposal.

The Navajo Generating Station provides more than 90 percent of the power used by the CAP to deliver Colorado River water to Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties - a 336-mile trip from Lake Havasu to the San Xavier Indian Reservation. Losing this source of power would mean a 200 percent increase in water-delivery costs, along with the loss of jobs and the ability for Arizona to use the sale of excess energy to pay for state obligations, including the building of the CAP.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to improve visibility at national parks and wildlife areas. Limiting nitrogen oxide emissions from the Navajo Generating Station would improve visibility at 11 national parks and wilderness areas surrounding the station, including the Grand Canyon. The EPA's Best Available Retrofit Technology, or BART, proposal would require the Navajo Generating Station to install emission-control technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction at an estimated cost of $544 million, with a final price tag as high as $1.1 billion if additional emission-control measures are needed.

The prohibitive expense brought together a coalition of stakeholders comprising the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, Salt River Project (and other generating station owners), the U.S. Interior Department and Western Resource Advocates. They all worked on an alternative plan that would satisfy EPA requirements while minimizing costs.

The plan, labeled a "Reasonable Progress Alternative to BART," includes two alternatives to the EPA's proposal. It would either shut down one of the three 750-megawatt units through the planned loss of two of the station's co-owners (Los Angeles DWP and Nevada Power) and their need for power, or would guarantee a reduction in emissions equivalent to that shutdown. The alternate plan also sets a deadline for shutting down the Navajo Generating Station by 2044, unless the Navajo Nation opts to run it itself.

While the plan is not perfect and some environmental groups would prefer the EPA's assurances of improved air quality over those of the station's owners, the economic realities make the compromise plan a better option for Arizona. Not only does it guarantee continued affordable operation for the Central Arizona Project for decades to come, but it also promises the closure of the largest coal-fired power plant in the West.

Arizona Daily Star

About the Station

The Navajo Generating Station, a 2,250 MW coal-fired power plant, is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page. It is co-owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (24.3 percent), Salt River Project (21.7 percent), Los Angeles DWP (21.2 percent), Arizona Public Service (14 percent), Nevada Power (11.3 percent) and Tucson Electric Power (7.5 percent).


Comments to the EPA must be postmarked no later than Oct. 4. They should be identified by docket number EPA-R09-OAR-2013-0009 and submitted by one of these methods:

• Federal eRulemaking Portal,

• Mail or hand deliver: Anita Lee (Air-2), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 9, 75 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, CA 94105-3901.