After 50 years, Navajo coal fired power plant shut down

After half a century of producing electricity in the Southwest, the Navajo Generating Station near the Arizona-Utah line was shut down on Monday.

Shift supervisor Fred Larson, who had worked 41 years at the massive coal-fired power plant made the final move and and permanently put the plant offline. The shutdown came as the company worked to use up a stockpile of coal it had on hand at the site.

The 2,250-megawatt, three-unit plant was one of the largest in the U.S. West and had long been a target of environmentalists, who argued it polluted the air and contributed to health problems, according to the Associated Press. Cheaper prices for power produced by natural gas, rather than environmental regulations, led the owners to decide in 2017 to close it.

Coal was delivered to the power plant by a dedicated, electric railway that snakes 78 miles through the high desert in the Navajo Nation. By next fall, the poles and overhead electrical lines that served the railway will be gone. The Navajo Nation has not decided whether to keep the railway and use it for tourism or sell it.

A trio of towering concrete stacks with flashing lights that served as a beacon in the community will be demolished by next fall.

Decommissioning will take up to three years, after which the land is supposed to be returned to the condition it was before the plant was built.

Reclamation work also is being done at Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine, which pulled coal from land owned by the Navajo and Hopi tribes. It closed months ahead of the power plant because it had no other customers.