Navajo Generating Station set to close in 2019
Navajo Generating Station, photo: Alex Proimos / CC BY 2.0

The owners of the Navajo Generating Station have decided to close the plant at the end of 2019 after a telephone meeting Feb. 13. The 2,250-megawatt coal-fired power plant’s operator, the Salt River Project, has said the decision to close was largely made due to the availability of less expensive power generated by burning natural gas.

The closing of the third largest carbon-emitting plant in the nation was welcomed by environmental groups. The Navajo Generating Station — located near Page, Arizona and Lake Powell —  emitted 17.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014, the last year currently recorded.

However, it will also likely cause the loss of over 750 jobs, including many members of the Navajo Nation, where the plant is located. The closure will affect approximately 430 workers at the plant and another 325 at Peabody’s Kayenta Mine, 80 miles away, which sits on both the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

Salt River Project owns 42.9 percent of the plant with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co., and NV Energy all owning lesser stakes in the plant.

The Bureau of Reclamation did not vote to close the plant and has said it will try to continue the operation of the plant after 2019, but how it will do that is unclear. The Bureau of Reclamation uses a share of its power from the facility to run pumps on the canal that brings Colorado River water to tribes in central Arizona as well as to the communities of Phoenix and Tucson.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power recently sold its stake in the plant to Salt River Project, and NV Energy in Nevada is also planning to sell its stake as well if it can find a buyer. The Navajo Nation seems to be the only entity that would like to buy that share or to keep the plant running. However, a similar plan for the tribe to buy stake in another power plant recently fell through.

The owners of the Navajo Generating Station will still need to work out an agreement with the Navajo Nation to decommission the plant after the lease expires.

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