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L.A. has a coal problem

January 24, 2012|By Dean Kuipers
  • The main facility at the Navajo Generating Station, as seen from Lake Powell, in Page, Ariz. Electricity from this coal-fired plant comprises a large percentage of the energy used in Los Angeles.
The main facility at the Navajo Generating Station, as seen from Lake Powell,… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

When protesters were arrested at the management offices of a huge coal-fired power plant in Arizona in  December, it highlighted a very untidy fact about electricity in green-conscious L.A.: about half of it comes from coal.

The protests were at the Tempe offices of the Salt River Project, managing partners of the massive Navajo Generating Station, which is a coal-fired power plant. As pointed out in this Alternet piece by Joshua Frank, the city of Los Angeles doesn’t own coal-fired power plants, but L.A.’s Department of Water and Power still buys 44% of its  power from polluting plants across the state line in Arizona and Utah.

Prevailing winds blow eastward, so we don’t suffer the effects of those plants. But others do. The Navajo Generating Station sits, as you would expect, on the Navajo reservation in Page, Ariz., where it throws out a reported 19 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution per year and particulate pollution that has documented deadly effects on the population there. 

Together with the Intermountain Power station near Delta, Utah, the two huge plants are part of the problematic – and ongoing – legacy of burning coal.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the L.A. City Council have actually made progress toward getting the city off coal generation, and two big plants have recently shut down due to coal-related issues. But this story illustrates that there’s still a long way to go.

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