Monday, March 26, 2012

Could Cholla power plant fall to War on Coal?

The focus on shutting down coal fired power plants in Arizona has been on the Navajo Generating Station outside Page. The EPA is pushing for emissions controls that the plant owners say will be prohibitively expensive, and force them to shut down the plant. The EPA position is supported by some in the Navajo Nation and environmental groups including the Sierra Club (which funded the 'war on coal' with $25 million from natural gas companies that are battling with coal-fired electric plants for market share). [okay, that last comment is a bit snarky, but the point is that this is not a simple environmental issue, there are strong political and economic forces at play]

But we are hearing reports that Phoenix-based Arizona Public Service (APS) may be laying the groundwork for possibly shutting down the Cholla Power Plant [right, credit] because of similar EPA requirements. APS is the major owner of the 995-megawatt Cholla Power Plant, which is located in northeastern Arizona along I-40 near Holbrook. "APS operates the plant and owns Units 1, 2 and 3, which are capable of producing 615 megawatts of electricity. PacifiCorp (PAC) owns the 380-megawatt Unit 4 - the largest unit at the plant." APS is starting to raise the potential impacts of EPA rules, in what is being talked about in the local communities as a way to prep the area for the economic impacts if the plant closes, or as a way to line up support to fight the EPA.

Interestingly, Henry Darwin, director of the Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality challenges the assumption that more expensive is better. At the Western Congressional Caucus hearing in Phoenix recently, he responded to questions about the EPA requirements. Henry said that the main justification for the EPA plan is to improve visibility in the region. However, he also said that while the improvement in visibility could be technically measurable, it would not be detectable by human eyes.


  1. My understanding is that this plant will be conducting a carbon sequestration pilot test. I think in some form this is hedging bets against outside competitors, namely natural gas.

  2. There was a deep well drilled to test the potential for geologic sequestration of CO2. Unfortunately they did not find the reservoir properties in the geologic units tested that would store CO2.

    There are plans to drill another test well in the region but I understand they have not been able to get permission to drill on reservation lands.