Arizona congressmen Trent Franks and Paul Gosar called on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, to hold a hearing this Tuesday, to question EPA's requirement that the Navajo Generating Station use state-of-the-art air scrubbers rather than much cheaper alternatives that the plant owners and power users argue will do just as good a job.
This is one more step in an ongoing battle. The plant owners, Salt River Project, warn that the EPA mandated costs of $1.1 billion might force the plant to shut down. The Page plant not only is a major contributor to the economy of the Navajo Nation, the low-sulfur bituminous coal is mined from the Kayenta mine 78 miles to the southeast on the Hopi Reservation.
The Central Arizona Project is the largest user of electricity from the NGS. They argue against the EPA requirements:
Last year, CAP used 2.8 million megawatt hours to deliver more than 500 billion gallons of Colorado River water to a service area that includes more than 80% of the state’s population.
Why so much power? Because between Lake Havasu and the end of the CAP system south of Tucson, Colorado River water flows 336 miles and ends its journey nearly 3,000 feet higher than where it started. Almost all of the power CAP uses to move this water comes from the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Lake Powell. Because the Navajo plant is near a dozen or so National Parks, monuments and wilderness areas, controlling emissions released from the plant into the air has been a priority for CAP and the power plant owners for decades. In the 1990s, the plant owners invested more than $400 million in scrubbers that take out sulfur dioxide (SO2), a gas that can cause acid rain.
In 2008, installation began on Low-NOx burners to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxide, also known as NOx. The job will be finished in 2011 at a cost of approximately $45 million. The U.S. EPA is in the process of setting rules to control NOx emissions at coal-burning power plants like Navajo to protect visibility in the region. The EPA is looking at the Low-NOx burners. They are also considering a very different NOx control system known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). An SCR system could cost more than $1 billion, at least 15-20 times more than the Low NOx burners.
There is debate within the Navajo and Hopi communities over the economic benefits of the plant and mine versus concerns of lung disease, asthma, and visual pollution from burning coal.