California Utility Abandons Coal Power at Four Corners Plant

While Southern California Edison Moves Forward, Arizona Public Service Company Moves Backward by Seeking to Increase Use of Dirty Coal Power

(PHOENIX, AZ)— While a California utility plans to abandon its coal-based power in favor of cleaner sources, Arizona Public Service Company (APS) is expanding its coal power by 32% at its Four Corners power plant.

APS announced yesterday that the company will close units 1, 2 and 3 at the Four Corners Power Plant located on Navajo Nation land near Farmington, New Mexico. The company has additionally entered into an agreement to purchase Southern California’s Edison’s ownership stake in the larger Units 4 and 5 at the Four Corners plant. With this agreement, APS is proposing to close 560 megawatts of its own coal generation (units 1-3), but APS will actually increase the coal the company burns at Four Corners by acquiring 740 megawatts of coal-fired power from Southern California Edison.

The announcement comes one month after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule on how to control dangerous air pollution from the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant. The rule specifically addresses nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution, which reacts with other chemicals to form ozone and small particles, both of which are very harmful to the public’s health. Children, the elderly, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone and particulate matter. The pollution controls required by EPA call for an 80% reduction in these harmful pollutants from the dirty coal-fired plant.

Indigenous and conservation organizations, including Dooda Desert Rock and the Sierra Club, released the following statements regarding the announcement:

Statement of Elouise Brown, President of Dooda Desert Rock

“Burning less coal at Four Corners is a great start towards protecting both people's health and Mother Earth's health, but this won't make current sicknesses go away. I would feel better if we made more jobs in transitioning the other units off coal and towards a cleaner energy from renewables like wind and solar.

“We can't let anyone walk away from their responsibility for cleaning up the mess that coal leaves behind like toxic coal ash and polluted waters.

“I look forward to learning more about the specific plans that APS leaders are thinking about.”

Statement of Andy Bessler, Sierra Club Regional Representative

“While we still need to see the details of the proposed agreement, we applaud the opportunity created by Southern California Edison to greatly reduce pollution at Four Corners. We are, however, deeply disappointed that APS is proposing to increase the amount of coal that the company burns at the site. While Southern California Edison is recognizing that coal-fired power is a poor investment, APS is simultaneously moving the opposite direction and increasing the company’s use of dirty and dangerous coal-fired power.

“The three smallest units at Four Corners are proposed to close, but even if this deal is approved, there are still two large, dirty and old units that need to have pollution controls installed. APS is clearly acknowledging that the modern pollution controls proposed by the EPA are the right thing to do for coal plants, but the best long-term solution for the pollution Four Corners emits would be shifting from dirty coal to cleaner renewable energy for the benefit of the tribes and area residents.

“Especially given the tremendous renewable energy potential in the area and the jobs that aggressively pursuing clean energy would bring the Navajo Nation, the Sierra Club will continue working with allies like Dooda Desert Rock, Dine’ CARE, the Black Mesa Water Coalition, To Nizhoni Ani and the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance to bring about a just transition away from dirty and harmful coal-fired power as soon as is reasonably possible.

“We were pleased that the draft rule EPA released last month sought to protect people living on Navajo Nation lands and the surrounding communities. People living in the area of the plant, especially the Navajo People, have suffered for decades from this dirty coal plant and burning less coal at Four Corners is one step toward restoring environmental justice and the health of the Navajo People and surrounding communities.

“Burning coal is harmful to public health, it is a unhealthy way to produce power and this outdated way of generating electricity is a bad investment. Now we hope that APS and other utilities around the country follow Southern California Edison’s lead and move beyond coal as quickly as possible.”