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Four Corners Steam Plant

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Four Corners Steam Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Arizona Public Service Company near Fruitland, New Mexico. The station consists of five units, and the three oldest were retired in 2013.

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Plant details

Coal plant on Black Mesa

One of the largest coal-fired generating stations in the United States, Four Corners is located on Navajo land in Fruitland, New Mexico. The plant’s five units generate 2,040 megawatts of electricity and are operated by Arizona Public Service Company, which serves about 300,000 homes in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas.[1] The American Lung Association estimates that 16,000 people in the region (15 percent of the population) suffers from lung disease probably caused by plant emissions. Each year the plant emits 157 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, 122 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, 8 million pounds of soot and 2,000 pounds of mercury. The plant's five burners utilize scrubber technology to reduce sulfur dioxide and were installed in the 1960s.[2]

The San Juan Generating Station is nearby, in Farmington, New Mexico. The 1800 megawatt plant emits approximately 100 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, 100 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, 6 million pounds of soot, and at least 1000 pounds of mercury per year. [3] The proposed Desert Rock coal plant is within a 20 mile radius of the Four Corners and San Juan plants.

Coal combustion waste from the mines supporting the Four Corners and San Juan plants has contaminated local groundwater with sulfates, leading to the death of livestock. According to one source, 70 million tons of coal waste (containing cadmium, selenium, arsenic, and lead) has been dumped in the Navajo Mine, and combined with the San Juan mine, amounts to a total of 150 million tons.[4]

Legal challenges

In July 2007 the EPA, as a result of a legal challenge by the Sierra Club and others, issued a plan to regulate pollution from the Four Corners plant. However, the Sierra Club believed that instead of issuing a plan to protect public health, the agency simply created a plan to "fill the gap they left by not regulating Four Corners in the first place."

On July 5, 2007 the Sierra Club took legal action against the EPA to force the agency to "live up to their responsibility to the health and safety of local communities."[5]

Four Corners in the Crosshairs.

On February 18, 2010, a coalition of environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture to declare the Four Corners plant in violation of the Clean Air Act and require reduced pollution.[6] The petitioners (including Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, the Center for Biological Diversity, Dooda Desert Rock, Diné CARE, WildEarth Guardians and the Grand Canyon Trust) note that the plant is the largest source of air pollution in New Mexico and is less than 200 miles from 16 national parks and wilderness areas.[7]

Units 1-3 retired

In December 2013 APS closed three of the oldest coal units (built 1963-4) at Four Corners to comply with EPA regulations, but will keep Units 4 and 5 opened (built in 1969-70).[8]

Ownership

APS to purchase SCE share and close Four Corners Steam Plant Units 1, 2, and 3

On November 8, 2010, Arizona Public Service announced that it had entered into an agreement to purchase Southern California Edison's share of Four Corners Steam Plant Units 4 and 5, which it plans to retrofit with additional emission controls. The company will close Units 1, 2, and 3. There will be no layoffs at the plant, which employs 549 workers, 74 percent of whom are Navajo.[9] Closing the three units will reduce the capacity of Four Corners by 633 megawatts (nameplate capacity) or 560 megawatts (net summer capacity). Units 1 and 2 were built in 1963, and Unit 3 was built in 1964.

Southern California Edison to divest from Four Corners

On March 30, 2010, Southern California Edison (SCE) informed Arizona Public Service (APS) of the company's intentions to divest its 48 percent stake of Four Corners Power Plant by 2016. According to APS, Southern California Edison announced it did not plan to sell its shares on the open market. Among the issues that may have prompted SCE to divest its interests are proposed legislative initiatives to regulate carbon from power plants, Best Available Retrofit Technology requirements for the plant by fall 2010, and the possible regulation of coal fly ash as a hazardous waste.[10]

In October 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission signaled that it would no longer allow investments at Four Corners Steam Plant after 2012, in compliance with SB 1368, the Emissions Performance Standard. The law, passed in 2006, prohibited new ownership investment in power plants that fail to meet minimum performance standard for carbon emissions. Southern California Edison owns 48% of two of the generating units at Four Corners.[11]

In November 2010 Edison International announced its intention to sell its share of the Four Corners Steam Plant to Pinnacle West Capital Corp. (PNW) unit Arizona Public Service Co. for the price of $294 million. Edison will sell its 48% stake in Units 4 and 5 of the plant, which at the time was still subject to approval from federal and state regulators in Arizona and California, Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said.[12]

EPA proposes nitrogen oxides at Four Corners

In October 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed pollution controls that would mean an 80 percent reduction in smog-causing nitrogen oxides from the Four Corners Power Plant on the Navajo Nation.

EPA officials said their proposal would require Arizona Public Service Company to install selective catalytic reduction on all five of its operating units.

Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for EPA's Region 9, said the Four Corners plant is the largest single source of nitrogen oxides in the United States.

The proposed controls would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides from about 45,000 tons per year to 9,000 tons per year, and improve both public health and visibility at 16 national park sites in the area, the EPA stated.[13]

Judge Suspends Navajo Mine Permit

In early November 2010 a federal judge voided a permit for the expansion of the operating permit for the Navajo mine located on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. It was one of two mines at the location that has sought expansion permits. The judge called for a more thorough review of the project’s impact on the environment and on cultural sites.

“This whole area has been utilized for thousands of years by indigenous people,” said Mr. Bartlett, a lawyer at the nonprofit Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colorado. “This is where people have buried kin.”

The decision “sends a very clear signal that it’s time for this agency to do its job,” Mr. Bartlett added.

BHP Billiton owns the mine, which feeds the Four Corners Generating Station, also on Navajo land in New Mexico.[14]

Plant Data

  • Owner: Arizona Public Service Company
  • Parent Company: Pinnacle West Capital
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 2,270 MW
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 190 MW (1963), 190 MW (1963), 253 MW (1964), 818 MW (1969), 818 MW (1970)
  • Location: County Rd. 6675, Fruitland, NM 87416
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.69, -108.4814
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source: Navajo Mine
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 16,395,797 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 15,192 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 44,649 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 563 lb.

Coal waste Sites

Resources

References

  1. Four Corners Power Plant, PNM website
  2. EPA Site Visit Report Coal Combustion Waste Minefill Management Practices, U.S. EPA December 13, 2001.
  3. “Speaking Diné to Dirty Power: Navajo Challenge New Coal-Fired Plant,” Jeff Conant, CorpWatch, April 3, 2007
  4. “Speaking Diné to Dirty Power: Navajo Challenge New Coal-Fired Plant,” quote from Jeff Stant, Clean Air Task Force consultant, Jeff Conant, CorpWatch, April 3, 2007
  5. “Cleaner Air for the Four Corners Power Plant in New Mexico" Sierra Club, accessed January 12, 2010
  6. "Environmental Groups Ask Feds to Require Reduced Pollution from Four Corners Power Plant", Jim Burnett, National Parks Traveler, February 19, 2010.
  7. "Air Quality: Request to clean up Four Corners timely", The Durango Herald, February 18, 2010.
  8. "APS closes 3 units at 4 Corners power plant," AZ Central, Dec 30, 2013.
  9. "APS Announces Landmark Accord for Four Corners Power Plant," APS press release, November 8, 2010
  10. "SCE divesting of Four Corners; APS looks to buy share," Kathy Helms, Gallup Independent" March 30, 2010.
  11. "California Gets Closer to Closing the Door on Coal" Noah Long, Natural Resource Defense Council, October 18, 2010.
  12. "Edison International To Sell Its Share Of Four Corners Plant" Dow Jones Newswire, November 9, 2010.
  13. "EPA proposes nitrogen oxides reduction at NM plant" Sue Major Holmes, Bloomberg, October 7, 2010.
  14. "Judge Suspends Navajo Mining Permit" Mireya Navarro, New York Times, November 1, 2010.

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