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EPA-forced rule at Navajo Generating Station would hurt Arizona economy

Arizona’s story of growth and prosperity came through access to a supply of low-cost energy and water that is now at risk. Before World War II, Arizona was a desert outpost — a stopover on the way to California. As the post-war economy blossomed, Arizona remained the rugged West. But a few visionaries who happened to call Arizona home knew this state could be so much more. To make that vision a reality, they needed one thing: Water.

Statesmen like Sens. Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater, alongside many other state and federal leaders, knew Arizona’s arid climate could draw East Coast and Midwest residents in droves if only there was a way to support their lifestyles. They knew that access to affordable energy and water would drive Arizona’s economic prosperity. So, they embarked on a decades-long effort to build the Central Arizona Project, a system of canals that could deliver Colorado River water to far-flung parts of the state as well as the population hub of Phoenix.

They just needed a way to move the water. And so became the Navajo Generating Station in Page. The coal-fueled power plant was built to supply electricity to pump the water in the CAP canal system hundreds of miles from northwestern Arizona to the rest of the state.

Today, the Navajo Generating Station, fueled by the Kayenta Mine, is the lowest cost provider of energy in the region and is the heartbeat of Arizona’s economy. The developing, high-growth Sun Corridor will continue to need access to the affordable power and water the plant makes possible. While we should be doing everything possible to keep the plant operating at full capacity, this tremendous asset for Arizona is being threatened.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing a regional haze rule that could require the plant’s operators to install $1.1 billion in nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions controls, even though low NOX burners and other controls were voluntarily installed at the plant just two years ago at a cost of $45 million. This technology reduced NOX emissions from the plant by 40 percent.

The EPA’s proposal would cost the state thousands of jobs, billions in economic activity, and could raise water rates for the 80 percent of Arizonans, families, businesses and farmers alike, who rely on CAP water.

An alternative proposal also being considered would shut down one unit at the power plant prematurely by 2020, and require installation of expensive controls on the remaining two units by 2030. Yet there is no scientific evidence that concludes early shutdown or cost-prohibitive emission controls will lead to any visibility improvement at the Grand Canyon. A study requested by the EPA itself and conducted by U.S. Department of Energy, concludes, that:  “The body of research to date is inconclusive as to whether removing approximately two-thirds of the current NOX emissions would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon or other areas of concern.”

The EPA’s pursuit of this regional haze rule is far from over. Five public hearings about the rule are scheduled by the EPA for the week of Nov. 12. Meanwhile, the EPA will be accepting written comments from concerned parties through Jan. 6. It is critical that the families and businesses of Arizona stand united against an EPA-forced rule that would set us back for no benefit, and unravel a major economic engine that has made possible the Arizona way of life.

David Martin, president, Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors.


  1. It’s Time to Pay the Piper.
    Quote” “But a few visionaries who happened to call Arizona home knew this state could be so much more.” Unfortunately, that vision is unsustainable. We have been using up the water and digging up the coal to pump it without paying the full price. Native Americans continue to be forced off their ancestral home sites, water table in the high desert continues to go down, air pollutants from the burning of coal are dumped into the atmosphere diminishing the experience of seeing the natural wonders of Arizona and causing health problems and real but poorly understood changes in the Earth’s climate. The water supply from the Colorado River continues to dwindle because of that climate change and the quality of the water is further degraded as it is pumped in open canals for hundreds of miles in an ever warmer desert.
    Maybe the problem will solve itself. When the water from the Colorado finally runs out and/or is undrinkable, the view across the Grand Canyon is gone, and the summer temperatures are intolerable, the tourists and Snow Birds will go elsewhere. Companies and jobs will leave for cooler climates. The desert will reclaim itself and we will have paid the price in a different way.

  2. This tired, lame argument has been debunked repeatedly.

    The EPA rule would actually provide incentive for economic development to provide more sane and environmentally responsible electric power.

    Mr. Martin might not have the entrepreneurial vision to provide the leadership for his association to “get it.” Nevertheless, repeating false arguments do not make them any more factual or rational the second time or the hundredth time.

  3. Whats a little haze and lung cancer, and who in the world wants to see the Grand Canyon? Typical selfish American, money and greed before health. I hope David Martin moves to the power plant and builds his house on top of a smoke stack. He may change his tune if he had to live with coal pollution everyday. Instead of in his 5,000sqft mansion 200 miles from the plant. Why does David not live next to it you ask? Because of the pollution. Same reason why oil executives never live close to a refinery.

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