By Tammy Gray
“No decisions have been made,” said Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) spokesperson Damon Gross late last week regarding the future of the Cholla Power Plant. “We are in the processes of determining the plan for the plant for the long-term.”
Gross confirmed that employees at the Cholla station have been informed that the company is considering several possible scenarios for the future of the plant. He noted that the information was provided as a courtesy to employees and does not indicate that the company has already made a decision.
“We’ve informed employees there that we’re evaluating different scenarios for the plant,” he said. “When a decision has been made, first we’ll tell the employees, and then we’ll tell you (The Tribune-News) so you can distribute the information to the entire community.”
According to Gross, it will likely be several months before APS officials determine the fate of the plant. He explained that despite investing hundreds of millions of dollars in pollution control equipment to meet new regulations, additional rules could affect Cholla’s future.
“As you know, we’ve invested significantly in environmental upgrades, but there might be more regulations coming down the pike,” he said.
Over the last decade, APS has spent more than $350 million to upgrade Cholla Power Plant to meet stricter environmental regulations. The plant has four units, three of which were completely renovated to meet new emission restrictions. Final work on unit two was put on hold because the new regulations had not yet been finalized. As of January 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had laid out regulations that APS officials indicated were not achievable. A report produced by APS Chief Sustainability Officer Ann Becker noted that no other coal-powered plant has ever met the requirements laid out by the EPA for nitrogen oxide emissions.
“(The) proposed NOx (nitrogen oxide) limit is unachievable; no coal plant has ever achieved the NOx rate EPA proposed for Cholla,” the report states.
The Cholla plant employs approximately 264 people, has an annual payroll of nearly $29 million, and generates about $15 million in federal, state and local taxes each year. Gross noted that APS is well aware of the impact the plant has on neighboring communities, such as Holbrook, Joseph City and Winslow.
“We understand the important role the plant has in the community,” he said. “Some people may say why tell the employees when we don’t have any definitive answers. We believe in being transparent and we wanted to let the employees know that we are considering different scenarios.”
Gross explained that he did not know the details of the scenarios under consideration, but that they vary widely.
“We are looking at a lot of possibilities that could run the gamut,” he remarked.
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By Tammy Gray