Interior Dept. Says AZ Water Utility May Have to Continue Buying NGS Power

Jun 8, 2018

According to a recent letter from the U.S. Interior Department, the Central Arizona Project may be required by law to continue purchasing power from the Navajo Generating Station. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, NGS is slated to close next year unless a buyer is found.

The Central Arizona Project funnels Colorado River Water 336 miles through canals to Phoenix and Tucson. It's the largest power user in the state and much of its electricity comes from the Navajo Generating Station.
Credit U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Interior officials say the 1968 Colorado River Basin Project Act appears to authorize NGS as CAP’s primary source of power. They believe the law still applies and therefore expect state water officials to continue buying power from the coal-fired plant.

CAP pumps Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson and is the state’s largest energy user. Tom McCann is its deputy general manager.

"We’re bound entirely by the Colorado River Basin Project Act. It’s the act that created the CAP … But those provisions have been modified and amended and enhanced over time … So it’s a bit misleading to go back to 1968 and say, here’s some words that we can hang our hat on and this means a certain thing today," he says.

NGS is the only power plant in the nation co-owned by the federal government. Coal has become more expensive than natural gas and renewables in recent years. The plant was put on the market last year, and unless a buyer is found will shut down at the end of 2019.

It comes as the Trump administration considers the use of emergency authority to save troubled coal plants by forcing utilities to buy their power.