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EPA Sets Rules for 4 Corners Plant

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued its final rule aimed at cleaning up the largest single source of haze-causing pollutants in the country.

Rather than mandate that the Four Corners Power Plant take one avenue to reducing nitrogen oxide emissions, the EPA is giving the plant’s operators a choice, regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld told The Associated Press on Wednesday. Arizona Public Service can either upgrade the five units at the northwestern New Mexico plant or go with its own plan to shut down three units and install controls at the two others.

The actions would cut emissions that cloud the air at national parks like the Grand Canyon by 80 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

“It’s a common-sense approach that will result in a significant decrease in pollution in spectacular parks like Mesa Verde and Canyonlands, which are crucial to the economy of Four Corners,” Blumenfeld said. “And it will improve visibility and clean the air that we breathe.”

APS must notify the EPA of its decision by July 1. It then would have about five years to implement the rule that also addresses particulate matter.

APS did not immediately return an early morning call today from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The EPA gave notice years ago that it would consider whether the Four Corners power plant and a second one on the Navajo Nation would need upgrades to control nitrogen oxide emissions. APS then came forward with a proposal in 2010 to seek majority ownership of the two units and shutter the plant’s three, more polluting generators. APS would lose 560 megawatts of power from the shutdown but would gain 740 megawatts from Southern California Edison.

APS expects to close on the sale of Southern California Edison’s 48 percent share of the two units for $294 later this year. APS proposed the buyout as a result of the California utility’s decision to terminate its interest in the plant in 2016 to comply with that state’s laws that prevent utility providers from investing in most coal-fired power plants.

Under the APS proposal, it would permanently shutter three units and install $290 million in controls at the newer units that were built in 1969 and 1970.

The power plant provides electricity to about 300,000 households in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

APS still is working on a securing a fuel agreement from BHP Billiton, which supplies the coal to run the plant.

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