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EPA Sets Final Haze Rules for Navajo Power Plant

By Felicia Fonseca for the East Valley Tribune

This April 6, 2006 file photo shows the Four Corners Power Plant, one of two coal-fired plants in northwest New Mexico, near Farmington. Federal regulators have adopted a new rule that gives operators of this power plants in the Southwest a choice of either trimming nitrogen oxide emissions by 87 percent or moving forward with plans to shutter three of the plant’s five generating units.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued its final rule aimed at cleaning up the largest single source of haze-causing pollutants in the country.

Rather than mandate that the Four Corners Power Plant take one avenue to reducing nitrogen oxide emissions, the EPA is giving the plant’s operators a choice. Arizona Public Service can either upgrade the five units at the northwestern New Mexico plant or go with its own plan to shut down three units and install pollution controls at the two others.

The actions would cut emissions that can worsen visibility at national parks like the Grand Canyon by 80 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

“It’s a commonsense approach that will result in a significant decrease in pollution in spectacular parks like Mesa Verde and Canyonlands, which are crucial to the economy of Four Corners,” regional EPA administrator Jared Blumenfeld said. “And it will improve visibility and clean the air that we breathe.”

APS plans to move forward with the plan to shut down some of the units. The deadline to notify the EPA is July 1. The utility would have about five years to implement the rule that also addresses particulate matter.

APS has received approval from utility regulators in California and Arizona to buy Southern California Edison’s 48 percent share of the two units for $294 million.

Under the APS proposal, it would permanently shutter three units and install $290 million in controls at the newer units that were built in 1969 and 1970. APS spokesman Damon Gross said the Navajo Nation, local economy, the utility’s customers and the environment would benefit from the plan.

One of the remaining hurdles for APS is securing a fuel agreement from BHP Billiton, which supplies the coal to run the plant.

For the Navajo Nation, the concern is a loss in an estimated $9 million a year in coal royalties that would come by shuttering the three units, said tribal spokesman Erny Zah.

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