Pollution Solution: Reduce Harmful Emissons At Coal-Fired Power Plant
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed Wednesday to require the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions 80 percent by requiring additional pollution controls.
EPA’s proposal will require plant operators to install the most stringent pollution control technology available for this type facility, known as selective catalytic reduction, on all five units. These controls will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides from approximately 45,000 tons per year to 9,000 tons per year.
The installation and operation of selective catalytic reduction is estimated to increase the electricity bill for the average Arizona Public Service residential customer by about 70 cents per week. APS is sole owner of units one, two and three, and owns 15 percent of units four and five at the 2,040 megawatt coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Nation.
“We know this is an important ruling that is coming out, but we're just in the process of evaluating it,” said Arvin Trujillo, government relations manager for APS.
Mark Schiovani, senior vice president of Fossil Generation at APS, in reports to various standing committees of the Navajo Nation Council, has said that installation of selective catalytic reduction is estimated to cost $828 million. That, coupled with Southern California Edison's plan to divest its 48 percent share by 2016 and other proposed EPA regulations, presents a “very complicated scenario” for the future of the generating station, he said.
EPA also is proposing a particulate emission limit for units one, two and three – put in service in 1963 – that will require additional controls for fine particles and may help reduce the visible secondary plume often seen emanating from the three units.
“Everybody is in support of cleaner air and a healthier environment, but we certainly hope it doesn't throw out of work hundreds of Navajo workers who have nowhere else to go,” George Hardeen, communications director for President Joe Shirley Jr., said late Wednesday. “EPA could have initiated this a dozen years ago and helped move us in this direction. But the main concern is the resulting unemployment in a place that already experiences extreme poverty.”
The reduction in emissions is designed to achieve cleaner, healthier air while improving the visibility at 16 of the country's most pristine national parks and wilderness areas. Each year, more than 280 million people visit these areas, yet many aren’t able to see the spectacular vistas because of the veil of white or brown haze that hangs in the air, reducing visibility and dulling the natural beauty, EPA said.
In addition, nitrogen oxides react with other chemicals to form ozone and small particles harmful to the public’s health. Children, the elderly, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and those who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone and particulate matter.
"The Four Corners Power Plant is the largest source of nitrogen oxides in the nation,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region. “Adding new pollution controls at this 45-year-old plant will reduce these emissions by 80 percent. We will all be able to see the results and breathe cleaner, healthier air.”
The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule requires the use of Best Available Retrofit Technology at older coal-fired power plants to reduce haze and improve visibility. The Four Corners plant would have five years to add the controls.
“We're very pleased that EPA has issued a rule that we believe will improve visibility in the national parks, improve health for people living in the San Juan Basin, and is consistent with the requirements under the Clean Air Act,” said Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust. “It's good for the visibility in the parks, it's good for the health of the people, and it's the right legal thing to do.”
As the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Parks Conservation Association in 2008, in addition to Wednesday’s proposed rule, EPA must finalize a regional haze cleanup plan for every state that does not have one by Jan. 15, 2011. Specific cleanup plans for the Four Corners Power Plant also must be in place by that date.
“The Navajo people have suffered for decades from this dirty coal plant and EPA’s announcement today is an important step at restoring environmental justice and the health of the Navajo people and surrounding communities,” said Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club in Flagstaff. “It is further proof that we need to transition our economy off dirty coal and look toward cleaner forms of energy from the wind and sun.”
Elouise Brown, president of Dooda Desert Rock, an organization opposed to construction of the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant near Four Corners, said, “The air we breathe has been polluted by the Four Corners plant for far too long. This air pollution causes respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis; it aggravates heart disease and it damages lung tissue. It is the Navajo people living near this plant who suffer the effects of this pollution and we thank the EPA for standing up against this threat to our well-being.”
EPA will continue to consult with the Navajo Nation and other affected tribes, and the federal land managers before taking any final action. There will be a 60-day public comment period on the proposed action as well as two public hearings in the Four Corners area. Additional details will be provided at least 30 days prior to the hearings.
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