Navajo power plant retrofit impacts on water rates, air quality
A study by federal agencies appears to support Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly's arguments that EPA requirements to retrofit the Navajo Generating Station power plant near Page, are unnecessarily expensive with little benefits, and other approaches would meet environmental goals.
"Low-cost power from Navajo GS runs the massive pumps of the Central Arizona Project (CAP)" delivering Colorado River water across Arizona. Environmental groups want the plant shut down over fears that it is a source of haze at the Grand Canyon.
The new report from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) concludes that it "is inconclusive as to whether removing approximately two-thirds of the current NOx emissions from Navajo GS would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon and other areas of concern."
The NREL study entitled “Navajo Generating Station and Air Visibility Regulations: Alternatives and Impacts” was completed under an Interagency Agreement between the Department of the Interior (Interior) and Department of Energy (DOE). This study addresses the various issues that EPA must consider in designing the BART [Best Available Retrofit Technology] rule for NGS.
Critics argue that the BART rule focuses entirely on technology rather than results and does not consider costs or benefits.
There are strong economic pressures to keep the power plant open. NREL notes that Tribal economic benefits associated with the direct operations of both the Navajo GS and Kayenta coal mine that supplies the plants fuel, are more than $150 million per year.
"Approximately 450 Native Americans are employed at the Navajo GS, and 400 are employed at the mine. The total wages and benefits paid to Native employees of the plant and mine are approximately $100 million per year. In addition, the Kayenta mine also makes annual payments of just over $50 million per year to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe ($13 million to Hopi, $37 million to Navajo) for coal royalties and bonuses, groundwater usage, and purchase of electricity from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. Additional benefits for the tribes include several hundred thousand dollars per year in scholarship funds, and local property taxes which primarily go to schools in the region. SRP also pays the Navajo Nation about $1 million/year in lease and air permit fees for the Navajo GS itself."
NREL found that adopting some of EPA's requirements would likely increase water rates from CAP between 13% and 16% for agricultural users and Indian tribes. For municipal and industrial users, the increase would likely be between 5% and 7%. These increases would roughly double under additional EPA requirements.
"If Navajo GS were to shut down, the Indian and Agricultural users of CAP water would see per acre-foot increases of as much as 66%, while municipal and industrial users would see increases up to 52%."