Interior, Energy, and EPA to work together on issues facing Navajo Generating Station

Agencies to work toward clean, affordable power, sustainable water supplies and minimizing negative impacts

Navajo Generating Station with Lake Powell to the right about 4 miles east of Page, Ariz.; viewed northwest from SR 98. Photo/Wolfgang Moroder.

Navajo Generating Station with Lake Powell to the right about 4 miles east of Page, Ariz.; viewed northwest from SR 98. Photo/Wolfgang Moroder.

On Jan. 4 the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a joint statement laying out the agencies' shared goals for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and energy production in the region served by NGS.

In the statement, the three agencies agree to work together to support Arizona and tribal stakeholders in finding 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."

In addition to identifying shared goals, the statement announced specific activities the agencies intend to take on jointly to help achieve those goals. These actions include creating a long-term DOI-EPA-DOE NGS working group, working with stakeholders to develop an NGS roadmap, committing to complete the second phase of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's report on clean, affordable, and sustainable energy options for NGS, and supporting near-term investments that align with long-term clean energy goals.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly issued a statement in response to this multi-agency statement regarding the Navajo Generating Station.

"The Navajo Nation appreciates the joint statement issued Jan. 4 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which articulates goals and commitments to work with the Navajo Nation to address long-term and immediate issues concerning the operations of the Navajo Generating Station," Shelly said. "The Navajo Nation has worked with each of the three signatory federal agencies on NGS issues since 2010 in regards to the requirements for BART and the Regional Haze Rule. The Navajo Nation strongly agrees that any federal action pertaining to NGS should be consistent with the federal trust responsibilities to federally recognized tribes in the region. The Navajo Nation is ready to participate in the NGS work group and will continue to offer recommendations and solutions for BART, and other aspects of the Clean Air Act, that impact the operations of NGS and improves the air quality of the southwest."

NGS is a coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Indian reservation approximately 15 miles from the Grand Canyon and owned partially by the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation. Power from the facility is distributed to customers in Arizona, California, and Nevada. The Bureau of Reclamation's share of the power is used to move water to tribal, agricultural and municipal water users in central Arizona.

The DOI, the DOE and the EPA oversee other federal responsibilities or interests relating to NGS. These include tribal trust responsibilities, protection of national parks and wilderness areas, visibility and public health protection, and clean energy development.

"After years of mixed messages and uncertainty, this joint statement seems to imply that the Obama Administration is abandoning a previous proposal that would have done little to improve haze while imposing catastrophic costs on the Arizona economy," said U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) in a written statement released the same day. "While there are many unanswered questions pertaining to this working group, I hope it signals that the federal government will work with, and not continue to dictate to, Arizona and tribal stakeholders. Protecting the affordability and security of our state's water and power supply has been one of my top priorities in Congress. Rest assured, I will continue to fight for Arizona's interests and ensure the NGS does not become a victim of the Obama Administration's regulatory 'war on the west.'"

NGS and the associated coal mine directly employs more than 1,000 northern Arizona citizens, with more than 80 percent of those employees Native American.

The plant powers the Central Arizona Project, the country's largest aqueduct system, which delivers more than 500 billion gallons of Colorado River water to cities, towns, industries, Native American communities, and irrigation districts that serve more than 80 percent of Arizona's population.

Additionally, the plant is critical to the federal government's ability to meet federal trust responsibilities under Arizona Indian water rights settlements.

Salt River Project (SRP), part owner and operator of NGS, released its own statement saying officials from SRP are encouraged by the joint statement issued by the three federal agencies.

"SRP appreciates that the three agencies recognize the importance of NGS and is encouraged that they appear to be working together to ensure that critical decisions such as the upcoming EPA Best Available Retrofit Technology proposal do not adversely impact the many stakeholders that rely on NGS," read SRP's statement. "NGS is an important provider of electricity for its customers, a responsible business partner with the Navajo Nation and a significant economic engine for the state of Arizona."

According to a recent study prepared for SRP and the Navajo Nation by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, NGS and the Kayenta, Ariz. mine will contribute more than $20 billion in economic benefits throughout the state, and nearly 3,400 jobs each year from 2012 to 2044. A full copy of the report is available at www.ngspower.com and www.srpnet.com.

Other participants in NGS include the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service Co., Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Tucson Electric Power Co. and NV Energy.

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