The Department of the Interior today announced it is part of an agreement reached that will allow for the continued delivery of electricity from the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Arizona while achieving significant air pollution reductions.
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 have signed the agreement. The agreement, containing a proposed "Reasonable Progress Alternative to BART," was submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today for consideration in developing the final Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) rule for NGS.
"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 it is also one the largest single sources of nitrogen oxide air pollution in the country, contributing to ozone and fine particle pollution in the region, which includes the Grand Canyon and ten other national parks and wilderness areas. The NGS is also significant because it provides over 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.
Consistent with President Obama's commitment to clean energy and reducing carbon pollution, Interior 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 megawatt hours of clean energy projects.
The agreement calls for Interior to 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.
To benefit the people who live in the area of NGS, the agreement provides a $5 million Local Benefit Fund for community improvement projects within 100 miles of NGS or the Kayenta Mine, which supplies coal to NGS.
The agreement promotes the development of clean energy by tribal communities, including a federal commitment to work with the Gila River Indian Community to facilitate the development of a 33-megawatt solar energy facility. The agreement also includes a commitment by Interior to provide, consistent with existing law, $100 million over ten years, beginning in 2020, to provide financial assistance to tribes in Arizona that rely on water from the Central Arizona Project.
"The investments made available by the agreement will help us carry out our commitments to tribal communities by providing much-needed funding for operation and maintenance costs of water deliveries to tribes and thereby helping to advance critical water settlements that will bring great benefit to tribal communities in the region," said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. "Many tribes in the area depend upon the Navajo Generating Station for economic development, so I am particularly pleased to see action taken that will protect and promote these jobs and income for Indian tribes and their members."
"The National Park Service is pleased that the agreement achieves important emission reductions that will improve visibility at some of our nation's most iconic national parks," said acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Rachel Jacobson. "We have an obligation to protect these treasured landscapes. It is great to be able to do so while also protecting the jobs and the people that depend on the power plant."
In January 2013, former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a Joint Federal Agency Statement to lay out the goals of the three agencies with respect to NGS and energy production in the region currently served by NGS, along with detailing specific actions that the agencies intended to take to further those goals. The agreement reached today will further the objectives set forth in the Joint Statement to find ways to produce "clean, affordable and reliable power, affordable and sustainable water supplies, and sustainable economic development, while minimizing negative impacts on those who currently obtain significant benefits from NGS, including tribal nations."