Monday, May 26, 2008

Navajo's Desert Rock power plant stirs controversy

The Houston Chronicle reports on the controversy within the Navajo Nation over the construction of the $3 billion Desert Rock Energy Facility (coal-fired power plant - artist's rendition at right) in northwestern New Mexico. If constructed, the plant will use low-sulfur coal from the Black Mesa coalfield on tribal lands in Arizona. A panoramic video of the proposed site is available at

The Chronicle reports that the plant "would bring $52 million a year in revenue to the tribal government and provide up to 400 jobs on a reservation where unemployment hovers around 50 percent." Coal production on the reservation was devastated when the Henderson, Nevada electric plant shut down two years ago. It was the primary user of Black Mesa coal.

The plant will sell electricity to whoever needs it, Phoenix or Las Vegas are described as likely customers.

The controversy exists because the reservation's 2,000 megawatt Four Corners Power Plant to the north is routinely identified by environmental groups as the worst polluting plant in the nation. The Desert Rock plant's emissions are expected to be only about 20% of the Four Corners plant and according to the plant's web site, will be cleaner in all but one area than a Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant, a technology generally touted as "clean coal."

Despite that, the article says EPA estimates the new plant would produce 6,644 ton of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, 5,529 tons of carbon monoxide; 570 tons of particulate matter; and 166 tons of volatile organic compounds, plus trace amounts of lead and mercury.

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