December 12, 2005

Mohave's Closure Could Be Imminent

By Marc Lifsher, Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times

Time is running out for talks aimed at keeping open a coal-fired power plant that supplies more than 7% of the electricity consumed by Southern California Edison Co. customers.

The Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev., is scheduled to close on New Year's Eve and should remain mothballed for at least four years, Edison said in a recent report to the California Public Utilities Commission.

Edison owns 56% of the 34-year-old facility on the Colorado River, which provides enough inexpensive power to run 1.2 million homes.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and utilities in Arizona and Nevada hold minority interests.

The plant, considered one of the most polluting in the West, faces an end-of-year deadline for installing emissions control equipment mandated by a 1999 settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmental groups under the U.S. Clean Air Act.

Edison declined to ask state regulators for permission to spend about $1 billion to clean up the plant until after it had completed negotiations to secure firm supplies of coal and the water needed to transport it in a slurry pipeline from a mine in northern Arizona.

However, confidential talks with the mining company, Peabody Energy Corp., and the mineral rights owners, the Hopi and Navajo Indian tribes, haven't produced an agreement.

A change in Hopi tribal leadership Dec. 1 probably contributed to the delay in reaching a deal, said environmentalists, who had expected to receive a proposal from Edison asking for an extension of the Mohave closure deadline.

A shutdown of the plant would eliminate hundreds of high-paying jobs for tribal members working at Peabody's Black Mesa Mine. It also could cause severe economic hardship for the Hopi Indians, wiping out 40% of their $20-million operating budget for 2006.