EPA Seeks Emission Curbs on Coal Plant Marring Grand Canyon View

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed air-pollution limits for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, a 2,250 megawatt coal-fired power plant blamed for reducing visibility at the Grand Canyon and other national parks.

The facility, the largest coal plant in the West, would have until 2023 to comply with the new standards on nitrogen oxide. Typically, clean-air rules require compliance within five years, Rusty Harris-Bishop, an EPA spokesman, said in a phone interview. The agency has greater flexibility in this case because the plant is on American Indian land, the EPA said.

Extending the compliance deadline until 2023 was a “warranted compromise” given the economic importance the plant holds for area Indian tribes, Harris-Bishop said. Many of its workers are Navajo and its coal is mined on both Navajo and Hopi lands. The agency also said that the plant has already taken measures to reduce harmful emissions.

The rule seeks to reduce nitrogen oxide by 84 percent. When it reacts with other chemicals, the pollutant forms ozone and fine particles and can cause respiratory ailments including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema, the EPA said today in a statement.

The rule will lead to “cleaner, healthier air and preserve the visibility essential to the economic vitality of the region,” Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said in the release.

‘Visibility Impact’

The proposed limits would reduce the “visibility impact” by an average of 73 percent and protect public health, the EPA said. Plant emissions create a “veil of white or brown haze” that reduces visibility at 11 national parks and wilderness areas in the Southwest, according to the agency.

The Navajo Generating Station began operating in the mid-1970s in Page, Arizona, near Lake Powell and less than 20 miles from the Grand Canyon. In addition to providing electricity to Los Angeles, it powers the Central Arizona Project, an aqueduct system that brings water to much of the state.

The plant is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and five utilities: Salt River Project, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Arizona Public Service Co., Nevada Power Co. and Tucson Electric Power Co.

The Sierra Club, a San Francisco-based environmental group, said it would seek the “speediest possible implementation” of the pollution controls.

“We do remain concerned about the lengthy time period proposed to clean up this dirty coal plant, as this pollution should have been cleaned up decades ago,” Andy Bessler, the group’s Southwest organizing representative, said in an e-mailed statement.

The EPA said it would accept comments for 90 days on the proposed rule. The agency said it already received 6,700 public responses after it first announced in 2009 it would issue new air-pollution standards for the plant.

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