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Navajo Generating Station consensus agreement a "historic" event

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A proposal has been submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for consideration in developing the final Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) rule to allow for the continued delivery of electricity from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Arizona while achieving significant air pollution reductions.

Navajo Generating Station. Credit: Alex Proimos/Wikimedia Commons

The proposal is part of an agreement signed by the Department of the Interior, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Navajo Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Project, Environmental Defense Fund, and Western Resource Advocates. 

"This consensus agreement among a very diverse group of interested parties is nothing short of historic," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "Through collaboration and cooperation, this innovative proposal will not only significantly reduce harmful emissions, it will also mitigate the plant's carbon footprint and ensure continued generation of electricity that helps power the local economy."

NGS is the largest coal-fired power plant in the West and one the largest single sources of nitrogen oxide air pollution in the country; however, it also provides 90 percent of the power for the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the state's primary water delivery system, and plays a critical role in numerous tribal economies. 

In February 2013, in order to meet Clean Air Act legal mandates, the EPA issued a proposed BART rule for NGS that would require the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction technology on each of the three NGS units between 2021 and 2023 to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions that impact the environment, including the clarity of scenic views in wilderness areas and national parks.

In recognition of the important role the NGS plays in the regional economy, the EPA invited the submission of alternative proposals that would achieve the same or greater benefits. In response, a Technical Working Group consisting of NGS owners, the Interior Department, affected tribes and other interested parties came together to develop a supplemental proposal. The group worked to address the concerns of many diverse interests in the plant and to provide the best path forward for all parties, in a manner that reflects current and future economic and environmental considerations.

Under the agreement, emissions of nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide will be significantly reduced while also maintaining essential operations at NGS for the foreseeable future.

The DOI will voluntarily reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11.3 million metric tons, or 3 percent annually, through measures taken at NGS or through qualifying low emitting clean energy projects, no later than December 31, 2035. Additionally, Interior will facilitate the development of clean energy at a pace and scope to achieve 80 percent clean energy by 2035 for the U.S. share in NGS by securing approximately 26,975,000 MWh of clean energy projects.

As part of the agreement, the DOI will help carry out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Phase 2 study to identify options for replacing the federal share of energy from NGS with low-emitting energy resources, and guarantees that the environmental review for NGS will consider clean energy generation options. The agreement also contains a commitment by the current owners of NGS to cease their operation of conventional coal-fired generation at NGS no later than December 22, 2044.

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