There was a lot of outside pressure to make a deal.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was breathing down the neck of the Navajo Generating Station, which sits on the Arizona side of Lake Powell, threatening to effectively shut down what’s known as the largest coal-fired power plant in the American West.
Meanwhile, some of the facility’s biggest customers — particularly the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — had announced that it was getting out of the market for what it considers dirty energy, such as the coal-fired Navajo plant.
Still, the folks at Salt River Project, the large Arizona-based utility that owns Navajo Generating Station, could have forced the EPA to go through a long regulatory and judicial process, trying to keep the plant operating, at full power, past the 2044 end date that has now been agreed to.
And those concerned about the impact the plant has on the environment — including but not limited to the haze that too often settles over what should be the clear skies over the Grand Canyon and 10 other national parks and wilderness areas — could also have played judicial hardball and tried to shut the thing down much sooner. Which would have had unpleasant reverberations for many people in Arizona and on its Indian reservations.
Instead, many of those with a big interest in how the matter was to play out got together, convinced EPA to hold off and, just the other day, won the regulatory agency’s approval for their alternative.
The adopted plan will reduce power generated — and emissions released — by a third by the year 2020. It will also require the installation of more up-to-date pollution-control systems, designed to cut nitrogen-oxide emissions by 80 percent by 2030.
The deal was not imposed by EPA, though it was prepared to do so if necessary. It was worked out by a committee of stakeholders, including the plant’s owners, area environmental activists, Indian nations and others who will have to get along without NGS.
The end of NGS won’t just mean a lost revenue source for the utility. It will mean higher water costs and other impacts on the nearby Navajo and Hopi tribal areas, as well as the systems that bring water to the large cities of Phoenix and Tucson.
The days of the fossil-fuel economy are numbered. And even as we continue to rely on one such form of energy — natural gas — King Coal is destined to lose its energy crown.
It is to the great credit of all involved that those affected by the future of NGS got together and worked it out.
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