AECOM hired to do EIS on Navajo plant, Kayenta mine life extension

AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support, said Aug. 6 that it has been selected by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the continued operation of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and Kayenta Mine Complex (KMC).

The power plant is operated by the Salt River Project (SRP) and the mine by Peabody Western Coal, a unit of Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU).

Authorizations for the continued operation of NGS and KMC require compliance with dozens of federal and tribal regulations, and jurisdictional approvals from about 10 cooperating government agencies, the company noted. Thus the need for an EIS.

Navajo Generating Station, which gets all of its coal from Kayenta, supplies 90% of the power needed by the Central Arizona Project (CAP) — the largest source of renewable water in the state of Arizona. Approximately 1,000 Native American workers are employed at the NGS and KMC facilities. With the NGS lease expiring in 2019, the recently approved lease amendment by the Navajo Nation and the subsequent authorizations by the federal agencies, which the EIS will assess, would extend the generating station’s operation until 2044.

Throughout the expected three to four year EIS preparation process, AECOM will work closely with Reclamation, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other co-operating agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

Among other things, AECOM air quality scientists and engineers will analyze greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change impacts, and compile and objectively review information and data to assure the best available science is used to assess potential impacts from the proposed continued operation of the generating station and mine complex. Senior biologists will evaluate and, if needed, propose mitigation for impacts to fish and wildlife, vegetation and wetlands, and will work with agencies, SRP, and Peabody to conduct an extensive ecological risk assessment in the region.

Matthew Sutton, chief executive of AECOM’s environmental business, said: “We’re pleased to provide technical and project management experience to help ensure the success of this critically important environmental assessment project that will deliver water and energy to Arizona for more than 25 years.”

The owners of Navajo, in the meantime, have come up with a regional haze plan that calls for shutting one of the three 750-MW units at the plant, something that has become an increasingly common compliance option for Western power plants. EPA wants NOx emissions reduced by 84% at Navajo through the installation of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems on all three units. But an alternative plan now being submitted to the EPA would shut down one of three units by 2020, cutting pollution beyond what the EPA has proposed. The plant’s operator, SRP, said July 26 that the plan takes into account potential ownership changes and pushes back the implementation of expensive pollution controls.

Two plant owners, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and NV Energy, plan to get rid of their stakes in Navajo in an effort to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. SRP, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Tucson Electric Power and Arizona Public Service also own shares of the power generated at the plant.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.