Friday, January 18, 2013

EPA Proposes Significant Emission Controls at Navajo Coal Plant

The EPA this week took a significant step toward reducing harmful emissions from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), one of the largest coal power plants in the southwest, although the emission reductions will be delayed by a compromise between the EPA and the plant owners.  Located in Page, Arizona, the NGS ships its 2,250 megawatts of energy to multiple utility companies, and spews over 19 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.  The EPA's proposed rule specifically targets NGS' nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, which adversely impact our respiratory health and deposit a smoggy haze in 11 National Parks and wilderness areas in the southwest, including Grand Canyon National Park.

The Navajo Generating Station, just right of center in this Google Earth image, is almost as big as the town of Page, Arizona on the left side of the image.
The EPA's proposed rule would reduce NOx emissions from NGS by 84%, equal to 28,500 tons each year, but compromises with the plant owners by extending a 2018 deadline to install selective catalytic reduction (SCR) scrubber technology until the year 2023, according to an EPA press release.  SCR technology is one of the most efficient but expensive scrubbers used to reduce NOx emissions.  The EPA justifies the extended deadline by giving NGS credit for emission reductions achieved from voluntary installation of a less efficient NOx reduction technology in 2009.  EPA does not always require coal plants to install the SCR technology.  The EPA in 2012 asked another southwestern coal plant -- the Reid Gardner facility in Nevada -- to install a less efficient scrubber technology.

Once the Navajo coal plant installs the SCR emission reduction technology, visibility is expected to improve in nearby parks and wilderness areas by over 70% in many cases, including at Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands,  Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks.

A closer look at the Navajo Generating Station.
Continued energy conservation and efficiency improvements, as well as distributed solar generation are more than capable of eliminating our coal power plants.  Consider that the Reid Gardner coal plant could be shut down if Nevada utilities invested in energy efficiency measures to reduce consumption by 2%.  The efficiency program would simultaneously save ratepayers $59 million over 20 years.  Similarly, Germany installed over 7,500 megawatts of mostly distributed (i.e. rooftop) solar panels in 2012, enough to shut down the equivalent of three Navajo Generating Stations.

1 comment: