Utilities aim to close major Arizona coal plant

Utilities aim to close major Arizona coal plant
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The utilities operating the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona have decided to close the plant by 2019, the Arizona Republic reports

The 2,250-megawatt plant near the Arizona-Utah border is one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in the West, but it’s a top polluter in the United States as well. 

The coal plant releases 17.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the Center for Public Integrity, making it the nation’s third-biggest emitter. 

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Plant owners voted on Monday to shutter the plant when its lease expires in 2019, though some stakeholders such as the Department of Interior said they hope to find another operator to keep it in service beyond then.

As recently as 2015, Salt River Project, which owns 42.9 percent of the plant, had aimed to keep it running until 2044.

But industry factors — primarily the decline in the price of natural gas — led officials to move up that timeline and consider closing the plant early, according to the report.

That means the Navajo Generating Station, if it closes, will be the latest in a long line of coal plants to succumb to changing energy industry economics.

"Obviously it is a difficult announcement to make, but a lot more difficult of an announcement to hear, and we are understanding of that," Deputy General Manager Mike Hummel said, according to the report. 

"Our focus now is to take whatever steps we can take to keep the plant running through 2019."

The plant employs 430 workers and it supports 325 workers at a Peabody Energy mine 80 miles away.