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New EPA regulations could impact Arizona

by Bob Morris, published

The Navajo Generating Station near Page, AZ uses about 8 million tons of coal a year to provide 2.25 GW of power and nearly 95% of the electricity for the huge pumps on the Central Arizona Project canal that bring water from the Colorado River.

The US Environmental Protection Agency is releasing new regulations controlling nitrogen oxides. This directly impacts the generating station and could force it to spend as much as $1.2 billion to install a new control system, as well as millions of dollars a year to maintain it.   Among the most prevalent of the nitrogen oxides is nitrogen dioxide. It:

"forms quickly from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment. In addition to contributing to the formation of ground-level ozone, and fine particle pollution, NO2 is linked with a number of adverse effects on the respiratory system", says the EPA.

The various nitrogen oxides are believed to make asthma worse and contribute to acid rain.

No one quite knows yet what the impact of the EPA regulations will be. A worst case scenario would be that the plant operator can't afford to make the changes and shuts the plant down. The pumps would presumably still be operational as the power would be generated someplace else. But the cost of electricity and water would unquestionably increase, as would the cost of agriculture. This could also push some farmers over the financial edge. In addition, Navaho Nation and the Hopi Tribe would lose millions in wages, royalties, and lease payments.

A potential shutdown of the Navajo Generating Station (or increase in its operating costs), in addition to impacting Arizona, would cause Nevada and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to scramble for new sources of power, or pay more, as they both get power from it.  Nevada Energy uses 11.3% of that power while LA DWP takes 21.2% (The dirty little secret of Los Angeles electricity is that much of it comes from coal plants on Indian land in other states, as coal plants are banned in California, even as a few tiny ones still exist there).

It is certainly possible that some are being alarmist about what the new pollution controls would cost (and lest we forget, these regulations will affect all coal plants.) But it seems clear the new controls will cost substantial amounts of money and those costs will be passed on in higher costs for electricity, water, and food.

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