By Linda Kor –
The Navajo County Board of Supervisors learned of yet another potential shutdown of a coal burning plant in the region when Barry D. Drost, project manager of Navajo Generating Station, addressed them Tuesday.
While the plant is located in Coconino County near Page, it employs more than 500 people, a majority of whom reside on the Navajo Nation. Peabody Mine, the supplier of coal for the operation, is located near Kayenta.
Drost explained that NGS is facing multiple concerns with the requirements being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with the expiration of ownership leases in 2019. “We have six owners and they all have to agree to spend $1 billion in upgrades for an operation that may only last another year and a half,” stated Drost, referring to the timeline requirements of the EPA.
Drost estimates that if the plant should close approximately 3,300 jobs would be lost throughout the state, as well as an estimated $20 billion in gross state product over the next 30 years.
NGS was constructed in the early 1970s and includes three coal-fired units with a total net output of 2,250 megawatts. It is operated by Salt River Project on behalf of six owners. The plant provides power to millions of homes in the Southwest and provides 95 percent of the power for the Central Arizona Project, the largest supplier of renewable water in the state.
He noted that the challenges facing NGS at this time are that several owners are uncertain about continuing with ownership in the company, and that lease and rights-of-way with the Navajo Nation begin to expire in 2019. Outside of those concerns are the EPA rulings, which require meeting mercury and air toxic standards, and regional haze standards beginning in 2015.
With the plant located 12 miles from the Grand Canyon, certain requirements recently implemented by NEPA for the reduction of nitrates creating a portion of regional haze will have to be met. According to Drost, it is estimated that eight percent of the haze over the canyon are nitrates, and only 15 percent of those nitrates are produced by NGS. “I’m not trying to diminish the environmental concerns, but I do believe there is a bigger agenda for the environmentalists and we are being caught up in it,” he said.
Supervisor David Tenney asked what response was being received by the EPA on the matter.
“The EPA is a big organization with 50 different views. They are sensitive to the issue and we are hopeful to get a positive response,” stated Drost. The board agreed to submit a letter of support for NGS as the owners move forward in their decision making process.
In other business, Commander Ernie Garcia of the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office presented a conceptual design for the expansion of the county jail in Holbrook that will include a new kitchen, medical and laundry facilities. The existing facilities were part of the original construction of the jail and were made to accommodate 124 beds. The facility has been expanded over the years and now holds as many as 440 beds, but those support facilities were not expanded.
In moving forward with the project, the board approved a contract with Johnson Walzer Associates in the amount of $249,000 to provide architectural and engineering services for the design of the new facilities, as well as a remodel of the booking and inmate receiving areas for the jail complex.
In other action March 27, the board:
* Approved the reappointment of Evelyn M. Meadows to the Planning & Zoning Commission for District I, Randy Murph for District III and Rick Slone for District IV.
* Approved the naming of an existing road in the Snowflake/Taylor area Top Ridge Trail.
* Authorized the cancelation of the election for the Overgaard Townsite Domestic Waste Water Improvement District scheduled for May 15 and deemed Jason “Billy” Fitzsimmons and Jerry Call elected, and one position vacant.
* Authorized the extension of a contract between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Navajo County to hold juvenile detainees.
* Authorized the signing of a revised easement agreement form between the county and the Forest Service with the agreement itself remaining the same.
* Approved the one-year reappointment of Ann Jeffers, Esther Peterson and Connie Bergstrand to the Navajo County Extension Advisory Board, as well as two-year terms for four new board members, Sadie Lister, Michael Larsen, Brad Michel and Codi Stinnett, beginning April 1.
* Approved a resolution in support of the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s efforts to fund necessary equipment upgrades at Sunrise Park Resort.
* Approved an intergovernmental agreement between the Navajo County Superintendent of Schools and Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Education Service Agencies in order to expend ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds.
* Approved a settlement agreement between Snow Creek Development and the county regarding the 2010 assessed value of 14 county parcels.
* Approved a contract between the county attorney’s office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs for forensic interviews by the Family Advocacy Center for child victims of crime on the White Mountain and San Carlos Apache reservations in the amount of $8,000 for services from April 1 through Sept. 30.
* Approved the official canvass conducted on March 13 for Timberland Acres and White Mountain Lake special road districts.
* Approved a two-year contract agreement between the county and WW Cattle Guards, LLC for the supply and delivery of cattle guards.
* Approved revisions to the Resource Advisory Committee grant agreement allowing for the funds originally assigned to double chip seal Burton Road to be reassigned for use on Pinedale Road.
* Approved a special use permit for the Desert Pines Baptist Association to develop a camping facility in the Burton area.