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Nov 16, 2013 12:15 AM by Sam Salzwedel

Northern Arizona coal plant shutdown could hurt Tucson

TUCSON - Tucsonans are giving feedback on emissions at a power plant in Northern Arizona.

More than 100 people attended a public meeting at Pima Community College West Friday evening.

Tucson Electric Power owns 7.5% of the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. It accounts for about 10% of TEP's supply.

It also the supplies 90% of the energy to send Central Arizona Project water to Tucson. CAP officials said if the plant closes, it could easily triple a home's water bill.

The plant operator, Salt River Project, is working on renewing their lease on the land. They will not know those terms until 2019. The company said it will close the plant if it has to make improvements before they renew their lease.

"The owners cannot make an investment of that magnitude in additional environmental controls," SRP spokesman Scott Harelson said, "with uncertainty about whether the plant is going to be able to continue to operate"

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the improvements will cost about $540 million. SRP estimates the costs are about $600 million and could approach around $1 billion.

The EPA needs the plant to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions to improve visibility at the nearby Grand Canyon.

SRP already plans to close one third of the plant in 2019, immediately reducing emissions by 33%. They do not believe it will be reopened.

In the past few years, they spent $45 million to reduce emissions by 40%, according to Harelson.

SRP hopes to start the improvements in 2020 and finish by 2030.

Some environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, want the improvements done by 2018.

Kevin Dahl attended the meeting as a member of the National Parks Conservation Association.

"It's just not fair to allow any industry to pollute our air," Dahl said. "Our air belongs to all of us. So as the technology is available to clean up, they should be required to clean it up."

The EPA held 5 hearings in 4 days across Arizona. Colleen McKaughan works for the agency and said they will consider all of those comments.

"People seem to be very interested in giving us their opinion," she said, "which is the purpose of a public hearing. So we're glad about the turnout."

The EPA does not have an immediate time frame for a decision. They are only considering options, and nobody has filed any lawsuits.

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