KINGMAN – The Sierra Club, along with various leaders from other environmental groups, submitted a petition last week asking the California Public Utilities Commission to take the proceeds from the sale of sulfur dioxide pollution credits from the closure of Mohave Generating Station and reinvest them in renewable energy projects.
According to Rob Smith, the Southwest Regional director of the Sierra Club, Southern California Edison, majority owner of the Nevada plant, stands to gain tens of millions of dollars on the sale of the pollution credits. Smith said SCE owns credits allowing the release of approximately 53,000 tons of sulfur dioxide. Individual sales have reached as much as $1,000 – $1,300 per ton credit, he said.
As the result of a consent agreement signed in 1999, Mohave Generating Station shut down operations Dec. 31. The consent agreement was in response to a lawsuit filed against the plant for numerous violations of the Clean Air Act.
It decreed that the company was to install up-to-code scrubber equipment within six years or cease operations.
The closure of the plant resulted in loss of employment for approximately 200, mostly Navajo mine employees, according to the group.
It is the position of the Just Transition Coalition that Navajo and Hopi tribes are entitled to the money from the sale of the credits to account for the loss in revenue.
“Our coal generates the electricity for millions of people in California, Nevada and Arizona. The Navajo Nation does not receive … a single kilowatt of electricity from Mohave Generating Station. Further, the Navajo (Dine) people on Black Mesa do not receive even 1 percent of the royalties that is paid to the Navajo Nation from coal and water sales. For more than 30 years we have been the source of cheap coal, water and electricity. We have kept costs down and profits high for both Peabody Coal Company and the owners of Mohave Generating Station,” said Nicole Horseherder on behalf of To’ Nishoni Ani, Water And Energy Consulting, Hopi and Dine, groups that are all part of the coalition filing the petition.
The petition calls the CPUC to “ensure that SCE does not receive any windfall profit for SCE’s own failure to make the long-expected pollution control investments in Mohave required to continue its operations without penalty under the terms of the Consent Decree.”
If the petition is granted, the Navajo and Hopi tribes are requesting they receive the SCE share of the profits, potentially up to $40 million a year until 2026 when Mohave Generating Station would have “otherwise stopped operating due to loss of its rights to use Colorado River water for generating electricity,” according to the petition. It is their hope to then reinvest that money into a renewable energy source.
“The best scenario would be for Edison to give up trying to keep Mohave open and, instead, invest in alternative energy projects and transmission lines that would help the Hopi and Navajo exploit their potentially abundant wind and solar power resources … With California wanting to invest in cleaner forms of energy … why buy another 20 years of inefficient, old coal-fired generation?” said Roger Clark from the Grand Canyon Trust.
Gloria Quinn, spokeswoman for SCE, said, “To claim that an asset belonging to our customers should be transferred to others is unprecedented and inappropriate. Furthermore, any claim our customers owe payments to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe would be invalid. All contractual commitments made to the tribes by plant owners have been met, were fair and reasonable, and were reviewed and approved by the federal government.”
The funds from the sale of emission credits, Quinn said, would go to offset the higher cost of electricity during what they are calling a temporary shutdown. She said SCE strongly disagrees with statements alleging that Mohave Generating Station will never reopen.
“We are working hard to find a way to return Mohave to service as soon as possible because of its unique value to our customers, to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe, to the regional economy, and to grid reliability throughout Southern California,” Quinn said.