Mohave Facility Won't Be Reopened

Edison says it can't find a profitable way to operate the heavily polluting power plant.
By Marc Lifsher
Times Staff Writer

June 20, 2006

After months of negotiations with two Indian tribes and the world's largest coal company, Southern California Edison Co. said Monday that it couldn't find a profitable way to reopen its heavily polluting Mohave power plant on the California-Nevada border.

Edison mothballed the giant coal-fueled generating station Jan. 1, a deadline imposed by a settlement in an environmental lawsuit that required the installation of about $1 billion of pollution-control equipment.

Since then, the Rosemead-based utility and its minority partners, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, have been working to cut deals that would reopen the plant — even as recently as Friday. Edison needed to secure coal to operate the facility and water to push pulverized coal through a 270-mile pipeline from a mine in northeastern Arizona to the plant's Laughlin, Nev., location.

"It's simply not feasible to move forward at this time," Edison Senior Vice President Richard Rosenblum said.

Edison, a subsidiary of Edison International, told more than 200 workers at the power plant Monday that they would be laid off.

Edison abandoned plans to revive the Mohave plant for a combination of reasons, including the possibility that California would begin capping emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, Rosenblum said. Another factor was the 2026 expiration of contracts with Nevada for Colorado River water to cool Mohave's turbines, he said.

Edison's 56% share of Mohave's 1,580 megawatts provided low-cost electricity to about 7% of the utility's 13 million customers. However, the company said Mohave's loss shouldn't threaten Southland electricity supplies because Edison recently began operating a new natural-gas-fired power plant in Redlands.

Edison hasn't decided whether to decommission or sell the Mohave plant, Rosenblum said.

Edison's announcement that it wouldn't push to reopen Mohave "caught us by surprise … and is not good news for the Navajo Nation," tribal spokesman George Hardeen said. The California utility had given no indication of its change of stance during negotiations with the tribes Friday, Hardeen said.

The co-owners of the coal, the 250,000-member Navajo Nation and the 7,000-member Hopi tribe, are expected to lose hundreds of high-paying mining jobs and about $40 million in annual royalty payments and other revenue from the mine's operator, Peabody Energy Corp.

But environmentalists said they weren't surprised that Edison gave up efforts to retrofit a plant that was one of the West's dirtiest. Mohave spewed an average of 2,000 tons of soot a year in 2002 and 2003, obscuring views of the Grand Canyon, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mohave also annually released an average of 19,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxides during the same period, the agency said.

"We were doubtful that Edison would be able to keep the plant open," said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust in Flagstaff, Ariz., which sued Mohave under the federal Clean Air Act in 1999, along with the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Assn.

Clark said he hoped that Edison and other utilities would invest in wind and solar power projects to provide California ratepayers with clean energy and compensate the Navajo and Hopi tribes for lost jobs and tax revenue.

Shuttering Mohave is a step toward meeting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from forecasted levels by 2020, said Bernadette Del Chiaro, a statehouse lobbyist for Environment California, a group backing a bill that would set caps on carbon dioxide pollution.

"When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging," she said.

According to a survey released by Environment California on Monday, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States nearly doubled between 1960 and 2001, with volume increasing dramatically in the 1990s.

California's efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions should make Mohave unattractive to potential buyers, said Rob Smith of the Sierra Club.

"The new owners would have the same problems as the current owners," Smith said. "Edison has had a hard time saying that Mohave is a bad idea, but everyone else says that we have to move on."


Originally found at Los Angeles Times


Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. posted without profit or payment for non-profit research, educational, and archival purposes only.





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