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EPA cuts emissions at Navajo Generating Station, protecting public health, preserving tribal jobs and improving visibility at the Grand Canyon

Release Date: 07/28/2014
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 947-4149, perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov

SAN FRANCISCO –Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized its rule to reduce harmful pollution from Navajo Generating Station (NGS), the culmination of five years of efforts between the federal government and tribes, utilities, water users and environmental groups. NGS, one of the biggest sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in the country, is a 2,250 megawatt coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Nation outside Page, Arizona, and less than 20 miles from the Grand Canyon.

Each year, more than 4.4 million people travel to the Grand Canyon, spending $467 million and supporting nearly 7,400 jobs. Yet, the spectacular vistas of the Grand Canyon and 10 other national parks in the region are often clouded by a veil of haze created by air pollution, including NOx. When fully implemented by 2030, the EPA plan will reduce NOx emissions by about 80 percent and the visual impairment from NGS by roughly 73 percent at 11 national parks and wilderness areas.

“By cutting pollution from NGS, millions of visitors will see the magnificent vistas of the Grand Canyon with greater clarity," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "This flexible and practical solution will also generate critical tribal revenues, improve public health, provide long-term certainty to power and water utilities and set the stage for a transition to a clean energy future."

In crafting today’s rule, EPA held five public hearings, had 50 consultations with tribes and considered 77,000 public comments. EPA’s final action on NGS follows two proposals released in 2013 to cut NOx emissions at the plant.

Navajo Generating Station, built in the mid-1970s, is owned by several entities, including the Bureau of Reclamation, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Arizona Public Service, NV Energy, Tucson Electric Project and Salt River Project, which also operates the plant. A portion of the power generated by NGS pumps Colorado River water to tribes, agricultural users and municipalities; the remaining power is sold to support tribal water settlement agreements.

In recent years, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and NV Energy, which collectively own almost one third of the facility, announced their intentions to divest from NGS. Recognizing the importance of NGS to Arizona tribes, the EPA plan gives the remaining owners a flexible timeline to address ownership changes while meeting the emissions reductions required by the Clean Air Act.

Under the Clean Air Act, Congress set a long-term, mandatory goal of restoring natural visibility conditions in numerous national parks and wilderness areas throughout the United States, known as Class I Areas. The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule requires the use of Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) at older coal-fired power plants to reduce haze and improve visibility.

In addition to impairing visibility, NOx reacts with other airborne chemicals to form ozone and small particulates -- both harmful to human health. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Children, the elderly, people with lung ailments such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone and particulate matter.

Acknowledging the significance of NGS to the region, EPA, Department of the Interior and Department of Energy signed a commitment last year to help develop clean, affordable and reliable power, as well as sustainable water supplies and economic development, while minimizing impacts on those who rely NGS, including municipalities, tribes and agricultural users.