Positive Environment News

Mohave Power Plant in Nevada to Close as Expected

Date: 30-Dec-05
Country: USA

The move was widely expected. Southern California Edison signed a consent decree with environmental groups in 1999 that the 34-year-old plant would shut by the end of 2005 unless substantial anti-pollution upgrades were made. Those upgrades were not made.

The plant will shut for about four years, Southern California Edison told the California PUC. That time frame was also widely expected by the power industry.

SCE said it would keep working to modify the consent decree but environmental groups said the company has had six years to fix one of the dirtiest plants in America.

The shutdown is a victory for residents of southwestern Nevada, said Rob Smith, Southwestern representative of the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club, the Grand Canyon Trust and the National Parks Conservation Association got together in the mid-1990s to take Mohave's owners to court, leading to the 1999 consent decree.

"As of the new year, Mohave Valley residents and Grand Canyon visitors can breathe easier because Mohave's owners chose to shut down their old polluting plant," Smith said in a statement.

SCE linked the estimate of being shut for four years to negotiations with Hopi and Navajo tribes on coal and water rights in Arizona. In a unique arrangement, Peabody Energy Corp., the biggest non-government coal company in the world, mines coal on tribal land in Arizona and then crushes it into a slurry that runs on a 273-mile pipeline to the Mohave plant in Laughlin.

Water used to make the slurry comes from the Navajo Aquifer in Arizona, but the tribes say this water supply is being depleted and is too valuable to continue using for the slurry. Negotiations involving the tribes are under way to get water for the slurry in a second aquifer, also on tribal land in Arizona.

Mohave "violated its pollution limits over 400,000 times between 1993-1998," leading up to the consent decree, the environmental groups' statement said.

"Because the maximum fine for each violation is $27,500, the maximum potential penalty was $10 billion. After intensive negotiations, the owners and the conservation groups signed a consent decree in 1999, which provided six years for the plant to install pollution controls or shutdown, allowing sufficient time to not only install the controls but also to negotiate new coal and water contracts with the Navajo and Hopi tribes and with Peabody," the statement said.

The closing of the plant and the coal mine will mean the Hopi and Navajo will have even more unemployment, which is more than 50 percent now, tribal leaders have said.

In addition to So Cal Ed's 56-percent ownership of the Mohave station, owners are the Salt River Project (20 percent), Las Vegas-based Sierra Pacific Resources Corp.'s Nevada Power Co. (14 percent) and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (10 percent).

© Thomson Reuters 2005 All rights reserved

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