Proposal targets power plant smog

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The federal government is proposing new limits for pollution from a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation that it says will improve visibility at places such as the Grand Canyon, but it could come with a price tag of more than $1 billion, according to the plant’s owners.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave notice in 2009 that it was considering whether to require upgrades to pollution controls at the Navajo Generating Station in Page. The proposal unveiled recently would reduce haze-causing nitrogen oxide emissions at the 2,250-megawatt plant by 84 percent, or 28,500 tons per year.

The EPA would give the plant owners an additional five years, until 2023, to make the upgrades under its proposal.

That would allow Salt River Project to complete negotiations with the Navajo Nation on a lease for the power plant that is set to expire in 2019, and to secure other right-of-way agreements.

The federal government created the power plant to ensure a low-cost water supply for the Central Arizona Project, which delivers Colorado River water through a series of canals to Arizona’s major metropolitan areas. It also fuels the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes and fulfills water settlements with other American Indian tribes.

The proposal doesn’t mandate a specific technology for cleaning up the power plant but acknowledges that installation of selective catalytic reduction would meet the limits. The Salt River Project, which operates the plant, has argued that requiring anything beyond the low nitrogen-oxide burners already on the three generating units would result in negligible improvements to air quality.