Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills

NAVAJO-OWNED COAL PLANT TO SHUTTER: A struggling coal fire plant that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke championed will be officially shut down next year after a planned sale fell through.

The Navajo Generating Station (NGS) on the Arizona-Utah border will cease operations in a year’s time after the company failed to seal a deal with New York-based Avenue Capital and Chicago-based Middle River Power, both companies that had shown an interest in purchasing the plant.

{mosads}They announced Thursday that they could not come to terms after failing to find clients who would be interested in buying electricity from the coal fired power, the Associated Press reported.

The plant is operated by Navajo and Hopi tribes who both profit off the coal sales.

As the price of natural gas production has decreased over time, coal fired plants have struggled to be a competitive energy source. A number have shuttered or announced plans to retire in the near future.

Zinke, who in his role oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was a strong advocate for keeping the plant operating. In April 2017, Zinke met with Navajo and Hopi leaders to discuss ways to keep the plant operating. He tweeted that he was “looking for solutions.”


Putting it in context…

Electricity generation from natural gas surpassed coal as the biggest source of U.S. electricity generation in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Nearly 47 percent of the power plants that retired between 2008 and 2017 were coal fired plants–the largest portion, the group found.

Nuclear power plants are experiencing a similar hit. Earlier this week the nation’s oldest nuclear plant shuttered its doors earlier than expected.

Read more here.


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DAM BREACH AT N.C. COAL PLANT: Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence caused a dam to breach in North Carolina, potentially allowing coal ash to flow into a major river.

The earthen dam separating Sutton Lake from the Cape Fear River breached near Wilmington, N.C., the Associated Press reported, citing Duke Energy Corp., the owner of the adjacent power plant and coal ash pond.

Water had previously overtopped the dam that separates the lake from the coal ash ponds for the L.V. Sutton Power Station, so the ash might now get into the river, AP said.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said because of the levels of water due to the flooding, she did not expect the water level in the lake to drop, which would mean a large outflow of potentially contaminated water.

Coal ash is a waste product from burning coal. It is not considered toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency, but it contains heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium, and its disposal is federally regulated.

The breach came days after Duke reported that floodwaters had displaced about 180 truckloads of coal ash from a nearby pond.

Another North Carolina Duke plant was the site of a major 2014 coal ash spill caused by a rupture in a drainage pipe. The company ended up admitting fault and paying more than $100 million in fines and restitution for that incident.

Read more.



The House Natural Resources Committee is planning next week to take up the Congressional Western Caucus’s package of nine GOP-backed bills to change the Endangered Species Act.

The Wednesday hearing will cover all of the bills unveiled by the Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)-led caucus in July.


Eight of the bills’ initials make up words–like the WHOLE and STORAGE acts.

The bills are aimed at a number of changes, like incentivizing voluntary conservation measures, making it easier for people outside of government to get a species’ protections removed and to prohibit designating man-made water projects as critical habitat.


Also on Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on ocean trash, its impacts on the environment and what can be done to cut down on it.

The same day will also see a hearing in a subpanel of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Relations Committee on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water and what the federal role is in combating the issue. Numerous localities around the country have found PFAS in their water supplies in recent years, and the EPA is considering whether to regulate levels of the pollutant. The issue of PFAS nearly military basis is of special interest since the chemical is often found in fire retardants.



The Canadian government took an initial step Friday toward a new approval for the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion following a court ruling that overturned it, CBC News reports.

A man who was accused of getting too close to Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful geyser was arrested Thursday after a chase, the Associated Press reports.

A federal judge let an upstate New York factory stay open, denying government efforts to shut it down over air pollution, the Buffalo News reports.



Check out Friday’s stories …

-Navajo-owned coal plant to be shut down despite Interior push to keep open

-NC dam breach could put coal ash into river

-Partisan politics at independent agency draws bipartisan rebuke

-Brown signs California law intended to curb plastic straws in restaurants

Tags coal ash Coal power plant Dam Navajo Generating Station North Carolina Paul Gosar Ryan Zinke
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