Zinke Goes To Bat For The Biggest Coal Plant In The West

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is partnering with a mine workers’ union and mining company to keep the largest coal plant in the West operating, The Washington Examiner reports.

The Navajo Generating Station in Arizona is partly owned by the federal government and a mix of other investors, most of which want to see the plant closed because low natural gas prices are making the plant uneconomical.

“Interior is committed to working with all parties, to include current or any future owners, to keep the power plant operational in support of good-paying tribal jobs,” Zinke said in a statement Tuesday, according to The Washington Examiner.

Zinke is working alongside The United Mine Workers of America, the union representing the plant’s workforce, and Peabody Energy, the coal plant’s sole fuel provider. Peabody and the Navajo Nation is searching for new owners willing to buy out those not committed to the keeping the Navajo Generating Station open.

If Peabody fails to find new owners, the plant will close. The utility Salt River Project (SRP) is a part owner in the plant that wants to see it either closed or transferred to new ownership, Arizona Central reports.

SRP officials set a deadline of last October for new ownership to come in. The current owners wanted time to transfer operation of the plant to the new owners before the plant’s closure date at the end of 2019 passes. While the deadline for new ownership is now passed, SRP is still open to transferring ownership, but believes the scenario is unlikely.

“It’s closing,” SRP President David Rousseau told Arizona Central. “Absent a unicorn energy company dropping in.”

Closing the Navajo Generating Station would also result in the closure of the nearby Kayenta Mine. Miners rallied at Arizona’s state capitol Tuesday to protest the closure currently less than two years away.

The asset management firm Lazard, hired by Peabody to find another owner for the plant, says it is seeing positive signs from others interested in taking over the plant.

“Lazard is encouraged by the number and quality of potential new owners that have submitted ownership proposals for NGS — over 15 private equity firms and power plant operators expressed initial interest,” Lazard said, according to The Washington Examiner.

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