Environment & Science

LA cuts coal use by 25 percent by selling share in Navajo Generating Station

Navajo Generating Station is a coal-fired power plant consuming up to 25,000 tons of coal per day that serves the LADWP, among others. The utility just sold its share in the plant.
Navajo Generating Station is a coal-fired power plant consuming up to 25,000 tons of coal per day that serves the LADWP, among others. The utility just sold its share in the plant.
Squeaks2569/Flickr

Los Angeles is one step closer to getting rid of coal. On July 1, the LA Department of Water and Power stopped buying electricity from the Navajo Generating Station – a huge coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. The sale means the DWP has cut its dependence on coal power by a quarter.

DWP had announced it was going to sell its 21 percent share in the plant last May. The sale put the city on track toward meeting former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s goal of being coal-free by 2025.

It also means one of the coal-burning units at Navajo Generating Station (NGS) will eventually close, reports the Arizona Republic. The power plant was under pressure already to scale back power generation to comply with Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to clean up the air around national parks and wilderness areas. NGS is among the most polluting power plants in the country, and contributes to haze in nearby Grand Canyon National Park.

Scaling back on electricity generation at NGS means the power plant will require less coal from the nearby Kayenta Mine, its sole source of fuel. That could mean layoffs at the mine, which is located on the Navajo Nation and employs more than 400 people, more than 90 percent Native American, in an area with persistently high unemployment and poverty.

DWP plans to replace the 477 megawatts of coal power – enough for over 300,000 homes – with renewables and natural gas, and by reducing overall demand. 

With DWP’s exit from Navajo Generation Station, there is only one coal-fired power plant left in LA’s energy portfolio: the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah. DWP officials say they are working on replacing that coal power with renewable energy, too.