Coal power is on the way out–and the closure of the 2,250 megawatt Navajo Generating Station is evidence. The major Arizona coal plant that’s provided electricity to cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix during its over 40-year history is set to shut down in 2019.
The Navajo Generating Station, which started generating electricity in 1974 and is managed mainly by Salt River Project, is slated to close 25 years ahead of schedule, according to High Country News. The plant is a huge polluter in the American West, spewing so much carbon dioxide Azcentral.com said the plant is America’s third largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to carbon emissions, the station pumps out 472 pounds of mercury, 259 pounds of arsenic, and 4,370 pounds of selenium from its smokestacks yearly. High Country News reports those elements toxic to humans and wildlife have appeared in Grand Canyon fish and Mesa Verde National Park precipitation. The coal plant also consumes around nine billion gallons of water taken from Lake Powell every single year for cooling and steam generation.
Coal power is no longer the area’s cheapest power source. Salt River Project officials have said it’s less expensive for them to purchase power from alternative sources than to generate energy at the station for their one million customers, due largely to low natural gas prices.
While the shut down will provide a breath of fresh air for the environment, the transition could be hard for local communities. 90 percent of the plant’s 400 employees are Native Americans. The Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe receive royalties from the plant and the Kayenta coal mine located 78 miles away which provides coal for the Navajo Generating Station. High Country News suggested the plant owners could work with local tribes to build renewable energy plants on reservations instead.