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Fires, floods, earthquakes add up to plenty of California disaster declarations

FEBRUARY 17, 2017 12:01 AM


Workman to save valuable equipment from the path of the rampaging Feather River at Oroville in December 1964 after heavy rains led to widespread flooding. The U.S. government declared federal disasters in 31 counties. There have been 250 federal disaster declarations in the state since 1950, the second-most of any state. Bee File


This year’s heavy rains and the ongoing crisis at Oroville Dam recently prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to do what he and his predecessors have done many times before: ask for federal help.

Once approved, presidential declarations – the most common is a major disaster – open the door to assistance from a range of federal programs, such as money to fix roads or help with living expenses for people thrown out of work.

California knows the programs well.

The state has had 250 federal declarations since 1953, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency data. Fires, floods and earthquakes top the list of disasters that have afflicted California, which has also confronted drought, tsunamis and a hurricane. Only Texas, with 254 federal declarations of 10 varieties, has had more. Oklahoma (167), Washington (132) and Florida (122) fill out the top five.


The rate of disaster declarations has grown significantly over the years. California, which averaged well under two federal declarations a year from 1953 through 1999, has had 182 since 2000, the most of any state.

Almost all of them – 168 – involved fires, including the deadly wildfires in Southern California in 2003 and 2007, the Angora Fire in 2007 near South Lake Tahoe, and the Rim Fire near Yosemite in 2013, the third-largest wildfire in California history.

Underlining the state’s latest requests is the occasionally heated political rhetoric between Donald Trump’s White House and Democratic leaders in California, which Trump lost by almost 4.3 million votes. Some Trump supporters suggested on social media this week that Washington ignore California’s request (it’s well beside the point, but Trump carried Oroville with 54.8 percent of the vote.)

Trump didn’t brush off California. He declared a major disaster for last month’s heavy rains and an emergency declaration to help efforts at Oroville Dam.

$118.7 billion Total FEMA grants since 2005 for fire, preparedness, mitigation, individual assistance, and public assistance in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Since 2005, California has received $6.3 billion in FEMA grants for fire, preparedness, mitigation, individual assistance, and public assistance, according to agency records. Only three states have received more – Louisiana New York and Texas.


Louisiana has received $26 billion in FEMA grants from 22 disaster declarations involving hurricanes (Katrina, Ike, Rita, Gustav and Isaac), floods, severe storms and one coastal storm. Hurricane Katrina resulted in more than $13.4 billion in public assistance grants and another $5.3 billion in individual assistance, according to FEMA records.

New York has received nearly $23 billion, including almost $14 billion as a result of Superstorm Sandy, which hammered the Eastern Seaboard in October 2012 and triggered a storm surge that flooded subway tunnels and caused billions of dollars in damage.

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Officials Working To Restart Oroville Dam Power Plant

Thursday, February 16, 2017 | Sacramento, CA |

UPDATE 3:37 p.m.: Officials at Lake Oroville say they're now working to restart the Hyatt Power Plant near the base of the dam.

The plant has been shut down since last week, when debris from the eroding main spillway washed into the diversion pond, creating a blockage.

Water backed up the channel toward the plant, creating dangerous operating conditions.

Bill Croyle is Acting Director of the Department of Water Resources.

"That plant is important for us to make available," says Croyle. "So, we need to move more of that material out of the way at the bottom of that slope, drop the water level in front of that plant so we can get into normal operation water conditions on the downstream side, and that allows us to add another way to get water out of the reservoir."

Croyle also says it will take a while to remove the debris field.

The flow of water coming down the main spillway was reduced today, in order to give workers more access to the area.

UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: Incident command leaders at Lake Oroville say work crews are making good progress on repairs on the emergency spillway to prevent further erosion.

The next goal is to address an area of debris that's blocking a portion of the diversion pool at the base of the main spillway.

The Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle says the conditions at the lake have changed a lot since Sunday and need to be put into perspective.

"The reservoir has been up at much higher than these levels before. You know, we're kind of at normal flood operations here, except for we have a damaged spillway."

Croyle says outflow on the main spillway was reduced Thursday from 100,000 to 80,000 cubic feet per second, and will hold there for the time being.

UPDATE 1 p.m.:


Posted by California Department of Water Resources

Posted by California Department of Water Resources

(AP) - California officials are slowing the release of water from a lake behind the nation's tallest dam so crews can remove debris from the bottom of the structure's damaged spillway.

State Department of Water Resources officials said Thursday that removing debris protects Oroville Dam's power plant and will allow for it eventually to be restarted.

Officials had been releasing 100,000 cubic feet of water, or enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, each second from the lake since Sunday, when the sheriff ordered an immediate evacuation. They didn't say how much water is now being released.

Department acting Director Bill Croyle said Wednesday that water managers would start dialing back the flow now that the lake has been reduced and can absorb runoff from storms expected over the next several days.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: The State Department of Water Resources says flows through the Oroville Dam spillway have been reduced to 95,000 cubic feet per second Thursday.

The reduction, from 100,000 cfs, took place so that crews can remove debris from a diversion pool at the bottom of the spillway.

Officials say the outflow will still allow for the reduction of reservoir levels.

Original Post: Nearly 100 workers are part of a 24-hour crew assigned to the emergency Oroville Dam spillway repair project.

Department of Water Resources Acting Director Bill Croyle says those workers are placing 1,200 tons of material in the emergency spillway, per hour.

"This community has seen an awful lot of trucks go through, lot of helicopters flying around, and that's an important part of our proactive contingency plans to protect the emergency spillway, should we need to use it again," says Croyle.

Coyle, however, says the likelihood of it being used anytime soon is waning. Water runoff flowing into Lake Oroville has decreased significantly over the past week, and upcoming storm systems do not pose an immediate threat.

-Randol White / Capital Public Radio

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Acting EPA head urges calm amid fears of possible course change

What's next for the EPA? Some fear nominee Scott Pruitt's intentions, but others say the green revolution's momentum will limit damage.


Joshua Roberts/Reuters | Caption

  1. Charlie Wood
    Staff | @walkingthedot

FEBRUARY 16, 2017 —Climate trends may be clear, but the future of the Environmental Protection Agency is anything but.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is expected to be confirmed as the new head of the EPA as soon as Friday. Another politically divisive nominee, Democrats are concerned his record of bringing repeated lawsuits against the EPA betrays an anti-environment agenda. But many in the EPA are urging a wait-and-see position, arguing that the economic momentum of the renewable energy industry won’t be so easily slowed.

One senator opposing the appointment, Maine Republican Susan Collins, called Mr. Pruitt “an accomplished attorney with considerable knowledge about environmental laws,” but expressed doubt “about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency’s critical mission to protect human health and the environment.”

Independent Sen. Angus King, who is also from Maine, took that opposition a step further:

“I just can’t, in good conscience, as somebody’s who’s taken seriously environmental protection all my life, approve the appointment of someone who is so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency,” King said, referring to Pruitt’s 14 lawsuits aiming to overturn regulations that limit mercury, minimize smog and haze, and control greenhouse gas emissions.

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E.P.A. Workers Try to Block Pruitt in Show of Defiance




Scott Pruitt at his confirmation hearing last month to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.


Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A.

Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to “get rid of” it.

“Mr. Pruitt’s background speaks for itself, and it comes on top of what the president wants to do to E.P.A.,” said John O’Grady, a biochemist at the agency since the first Bush administration and president of the union representing the E.P.A.’s 15,000 employees nationwide.

Nicole Cantello, an E.P.A. lawyer who heads the union in the Chicago area, said: “It seems like Trump and Pruitt want a complete reversal of what E.P.A. has done. I don’t know if there’s any other agency that’s been so reviled. So it’s in our interests to do this.”

The union has sent emails and posted Facebook and Twitter messages urging members to make the calls.

“It is rare,” said James A. Thurber, the director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this.”

The campaign is not likely to succeed. Before Friday’s vote, two Democratic senators, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, announced that they would vote for Mr. Pruitt’s confirmation, and only one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, has said she will oppose him.

But because Civil Service rules make it difficult to fire federal workers, the show of defiance indicates that Mr. Pruitt will face strong internal opposition to many of his promised efforts to curtail E.P.A. activities and influence.

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Will the crisis at Oroville Dam become a catalyst for change?



Reconstruction continued Wednesday in a race to shore up the emergency spillway, left, at the Oroville Dam.


February 17, 2017, 12:05 a.m.

Jeffrey Mount, a leading expert on California water policy, remembers the last time a crisis at the Oroville Dam seemed likely to prompt reform. It was 1997 and the lake risked overflowing, while levees further downstream failed and several people died.

“If this doesn’t galvanize action, I don’t know what will,” Mount said he thought at the time. But spring came, the waters receded and no changes came to pass.

Now another threat looms in Oroville, where deteriorating spillways forced widespread evacuations, and more heavy rain is around the corner. State officials have remained focused on quick fixes at the dam needed to prevent catastrophic flooding, but some are already thinking about how the crisis could spur long-term shifts in policy.

It’s a conversation that’s gaining momentum in think tanks and government offices from Sacramento to Washington, and it touches on climate change, infrastructure spending and statewide water policy.

Wade Crowfoot, a former advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown who now leads the Water Foundation, a nonprofit research organization in Sacramento, compared the situation to the state’s years-long drought.

“This is a wake-up call,” he said. “The drought reminded us we need to use water more wisely. Oroville reminds us that we need to upgrade our infrastructure and our management to move water more wisely.”

In 2014, the drought prompted Brown to sign the state’s first-ever law for managing groundwater, which had been depleted as farmers tried to keep crops alive. Now there are new considerations as California strains under one of its wettest winters on record.

Crowfoot said officials should curtail Southern California’s reliance on water delivered from the northern reservoirs including Lake Oroville, reducing pressure on the state’s infrastructure by increasing water recycling or stormwater capture. Another step could be focusing on sending more water to underground aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies.

With Oroville the subject of round-the-clock news coverage, state leaders can “treat it as an opportunity to rethink how we’re providing water and moving water,” Crowfoot said.

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Oroville shows officials have focused on false choices over California’s water system

FEBRUARY 16, 2017 12:20 PM


Helicopters move boulders onto the damaged emergency spillway of Oroville Dam on Feb. 14. Randall Benton


Special to The Bee

Aubrey Bettencourt is the executive director of the California Water Alliance, a statewide water policy nonprofit. Contact her at


After six years of drought and a few months of flooding, California’s decades-long political commitment to ideology of being either for the environment or against progress has endangered the state’s water supply system and is threatening public safety, environmental health and economic stability.

Rather than upgrade California’s water collection and delivery systems, for 50 years state bureaucrats, political appointees and many elected officials focused their priorities on an onslaught of environmental standards, regulations, projects and programs committed to their rose-colored-glasses vision of California.

They created a false choice for all elected officials, every “wanna-be” officeholder, career bureaucrat, water manager, scientist and engineer, advocacy group, community leader, and even California voters: either you are for the environment or you are against California.

Once again Mother Nature has shown that these choices cannot be either-or decisions. Both options – all options – are important. Six years of devastating drought and a quarter year of record rain are no match for California’s political game masters.

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Water Contamination Threat Rises At Dakota Access Protest Site

FEB 14, 2017 @ 09:13 PM

David Blackmon , CONTRIBUTOR

I write about issues impacting the energy sector

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

  1. National media outlets have tended to portray these protesters - many of whom are professionals - as a peaceful and spiritual bunch
  2. Local officials have been stunned by the hateful nature of the protesters and their supporters


Unseasonably warm weather results in ice melt, turning the Oceti Sakowin protest camp side into a muddy quagmire. [Photo Courtesy of]

Imagine if you will an oil and gas pipeline company whose workers move into Army Corps of Engineers land in the middle of summer and establish an illegal campsite.  Imagine next that said oil and gas pipeline company then sends out a nationwide call to action inviting non-employees from all parts of the country to join its employees at the campsite.  Imagine that, over the next several months, thousands of such outsiders come and go to and from the illegal site, leaving behind piles of trash, large volumes of human waste, and dozens of abandoned cars, commercial vans, buses and trucks, many of which are broken down or out of gasoline.

Next, imagine that said oil and gas pipeline company's management gets a little antsy about the situation around December, worried that the campsite in fact sits smack dab in the middle of a flood plain, a flood plain that drains into a nearby lake which serves as the drinking water supply for several Indian tribes and surrounding communities.  Imagine that management understands that, when the spring thaws begin to come around the first of March, the resulting flood waters will carry whatever garbage, human waste and abandoned cars remain at the site right down into that nearby lake, thus polluting the drinking water for those surrounding communities.

Now, imagine that several hundred of those outsiders choose to ignore the requests by management to leave, and instead stick around causing trouble and interfering with cleanup efforts until mid-February.  Imagine that the oil and gas pipeline company refuses to clean up its own mess, and leaves that job to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Imagine that, as the cleanup efforts finally begin, the weather suddenly becomes unseasonably warm, causing much of the snow and ice to begin to melt, turning the campsite into an ugly, muddy quagmire.  Imagine that, at that point, the crews conducting the cleanup have only managed to haul off about 25% of the gigantic mounds of garbage, and haven't even begun removing the abandoned cars, and now they're having a hard time getting their trucks and other equipment into the site to do the work.

Now, imagine the uproar that would be taking place in the national news media had an oil and gas pipeline company caused such a situation to exist.  And imagine the legal hell that would rain down upon said oil and gas pipeline company in the form of fines, civil penalties and even criminal penalties from a multitude of local, state and federal government agencies in such a situation, especially if the site is not ultimately cleaned out before the spring floods begin in earnest.

I am of course describing the current dire situation that exists at the protest site of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the series of events that have led up to it.  Except, of course, it wasn't an oil and gas pipeline company that created this situation - Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP), the builder of the Dakota Access line, is in fact the target of the protesters, who somewhat ironically like to call themselves "water protectors."

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Greenpeace Links Beijing’s Air Pollution Surge to Steel Factories



An unauthorized steel plant in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. China’s growth in operating steel capacity last year was more than twice Britain’s total capacity, Greenpeace reported.


Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

[Read in Chinese - 点击查看本文中文版]

Despite promises to cut steel overcapacity, China actually brought more steel production online last year, resulting in a surge in air pollution in northern China, especially around Beijing, according to a report released this week by Greenpeace East Asia.

The growth in operating capacity was more than twice the total steel making capacity of Britain, the report said.

The increase in steel production, which is powered by the burning of coal, also means that levels of greenhouse gas emissions from that sector almost certainly grew last year, compared with 2015 levels. Greenhouse gases are the main factor behind the acceleration of climate change. The steel industry is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas; the first is power generation, which also relies mostly on coal.



Steam and smoke rising from a pile of waste coal near a steel factory in Inner Mongolia. The greatest increases in steel capacity were in the provinces of Shanxi and Hebei, near Beijing.


Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, ahead of the United States.

The report, released Monday, shows how powerful state-owned enterprises and local officials have acted to keep steel companies operating out of economic self-interest despite a serious overcapacity problem in the industry. And as China’s economic growth slows, local governments feel rising pressure to support factory jobs to avoid domestic unrest.

The report said 10 Chinese provinces increased their operating steel production capacity. The greatest increases were in Shanxi and Hebei, which are close to Beijing and have some of the most toxic air in the world. Only six provinces had a net decrease, the report said.



Smog in Beijing on Tuesday. The increase in steel production, powered by burning coal, means that greenhouse gas emissions from that sector almost certainly grew last year.


Jason Lee/Reuters

The Chinese consulting firm Custeel, under commission from Greenpeace East Asia, did the main research for the report. The firm based its calculations on surveys and official documents, including ones from local governments.

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You’re more likely to die from air pollution in India than China, study says

By Annie Gowen February 14


Heavy dust and smog envelop a street in New Delhi in November. Pollution levels in the Indian capital skyrocketed that month after Diwali fireworks celebrations. (Harish Tyagi/ EPA)

Indians face greater health risks from air pollution than people living in China, a new study has found.

Scientists and doctors working with the Health Effects Institute in Boston studied satellite data and air pollution from 1990 to 2015 in countries around the world and found that air-pollution levels have risen dramatically across northern India and Bangladesh since 2010.

The 2017 State of Global Air report, released Tuesday by the institute and others, finds that since 1990 the absolute number of ozone-related deaths has risen at an alarming rate in India — by about 150 percent — while in China, some European nations and Russia, the number has remained stable. Measured per head of population, India substantially outpaces China, with 14.7 ozone-related deaths for every 100,000 people, compared with China's 5.9.

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In addition, the absolute number of deaths in India attributed to fine particulate matter in the air were approaching China’s toll in 2015 and probably exceed that figure by now, according to Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute. An increase in vehicle traffic, emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities, and fires fueled by wood and dung contribute to the problem. When calculated per 100,000 of population, the number in both countries has decreased, although India's remains far above China's.

“India has substantially higher air-pollution levels than China today and is caught up and surpassing China in terms of the risk to the population’s health,” Greenbaum said.

The study shows that in 2015, long-term exposure to fine particulate matter — the dangerous tiny particles that can penetrate the lungs and cause cancer, heart disease and other ailments — contributed to 4.2 million deaths globally. China and India together accounted for 52 percent of those.


According to Greenbaum, the health effects are worsening in India as air pollution increases, while the Chinese data is stabilizing after an aggressive campaign to diminish emissions from coal-fired power plants and other pollution-control efforts. India is taking longer to address coal emissions and vehicle standards, he said, meaning its death toll will continue to rise. The country has tightened its emissions standards for cars and will align them with strict European standards by 2020.

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Oil Producers Comply With OPEC Deal to Cut Output, but for How Long?




OPEC ministers at the cartel’s meeting in Vienna in November.

Credit Ronald Zak/Associated Press

When OPEC and other major oil exporters agreed late last year to limit production as a way to bolster teetering prices, many saw it as a shaky deal by a spent force.

That perception, though, has changed. And oil prices are up 20 percent since the agreement was reached.

New data published on Monday by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries shows that the cartel’s 13 members have largely complied with the production cut.

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Chaos at Toshiba: $6.3 billion write-down, chairman resigns, bankruptcy looms


The logo of Toshiba Corp is seen as window cleaners work on the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 14, 2017. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

By Anna Fifield February 14 at 4:36 AM

TOKYO — The chaos at Toshiba, the Japanese corporate giant, deepened Tuesday, with its chairman resigning and the company saying it would book a $6.3 billion loss related to its U.S. nuclear business.

Analysts are now speculating about the possibility that Toshiba, which employs almost 200,000 people in Japan and has significant investments in the United States, will have to file for bankruptcy.

“This is one of Japan’s historic corporations and it’s very important to the Japanese economy, so this could be very significant for Japan,” said Tom O’Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy analyst. “It would even impact Japan’s sovereign credit rating if there’s a knock-on effect.”

The news came a day after government statistics showed that the Japanese economy grew by an anemic 0.2 percent in the three months to December, the third consecutive quarter that growth in the world's third largest economy had slowed.

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VW CEO Slams Infighting as Spat Escalates Over Worker Agreement

by Christoph Rauwald

February 13, 2017 5:27:01 AM PST

  1. Labor leaders say meeting with VW brand management adjourned
  2. Mueller seeks to end airing of internal disputes in public

Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller sought to calm nerves at the German carmaker as festering disputes with labor leaders and allegations from former Chairman Ferdinand Piech threatened to disrupt efforts to overcome its diesel-cheating scandal.

“You’re all certainly as irritated as I am, because Volkswagen needs something totally different now: namely, concentration in order to cleanly emerge from the diesel crisis,” Mueller said Monday in a letter to staff obtained by Bloomberg, vowing to resolve the conflicts.

Mueller, pushing to stabilize Volkswagen after the worst crisis in its history erupted in September 2015, is battling renewed internal tensions that emerged last week. A fresh spat with labor leaders at the namesake VW brand raised questions over a planned overhaul at the carmaker’s biggest unit only three months after a landmark agreement to slash costs. Meanwhile, Piech rekindled accusations that top managers, including former CEO Martin Winterkorn, knew about rigged diesel engines months before the manufacturer admitted to it after reportedly being tipped off by Israel’s spy agency.

“Some speculation recently had more in common with a bad film script than reality,” said Mueller, adding that internal conflicts being aired in public creates “the fatal and wrong impression that people at VW work against each o

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The West’s largest coal-fired power plant is closing. Not even Trump can save it.

By Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson February 14


The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station, as seen from Lake Powell in Page, Ariz. The coal-fired plant’s shutdown in 2019 would mean the loss of hundreds of jobs and an economic blow to two local tribes. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to help revive the struggling coal industry.

It’s looking like a tough promise to keep.

In the past three weeks, owners of two of the nation’s biggest coal-fired power plants have announced plans to shut them down, potentially idling hundreds of workers. One plant in Arizona is the largest coal-fired facility in the western United States.

“[We’re] bringing back jobs, big league,” President Trump said Tuesday after signing legislation that would scrap requirements for natural resources companies to disclose payments to foreign governments. “We’re bringing them back at the plant level. We’re bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back.”

Yet even with his efforts to roll back Obama-era energy regulations, a lot of coal jobs won’t ever return, mainly because of harsh economic realities.

Case in point: The decision this week by the utilities that own the Navajo Generating Station outside Page, Ariz., to decommission the plant at the end of 2019, decades earlier than expected.

The 2,250-megawatt plant has faced increasing financial pressure in the face of record-low natural gas prices, which have made it more expensive to produce electricity at the facility than to purchase it from cheaper sources.

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Utilities vote to close 2,250 MW Navajo plant, largest coal generator in western US

Robert Walton



Feb. 15, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • Four utilities led by plant operator Salt River Project have decided to shutter the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station (NGS) near Page, Ariz., by 2019. The 2,250 MW plant is the largest coal generator in the western United States.
  • Competition from inexpensive natural gas generators means electricity from NGS is already more expensive than wholesale power prices, the utilities said in a release, a trend that's not expected to reverse in coming years. The decision is the second major coal shuttering announcement in less than a month.
  • The deal announced this week aims to maintain employment at the plant for almost three years, while also preserving revenues for the Navajo and the Hopi tribes. It also allows the Navajo Nation or others to continue operating the plant beyond 2019, though the current group of owners will not be involved.


Dive Insight:

Natural gas generation is already cheaper than power from NGS, and electricity from the 1970s-era coal plant is only expected to get more expensive in the coming years.

Last year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory issued analysis that pegged the cost of power generated at NGS at $38/MWh, compared with $32 in 2015. After 2019, that cost will rise to $41/MWh, reflecting terms of a new lease, and then $51/MWh in 2030 due to emissions standards (provided they are not rolled back by the Trump administration).

That reality has led the plant's four owners to say they're shutting it down, though they leave option the option that another group could take it over. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns about a quarter of the NGS plant, while SRP claims 43%. Arizona Public Service, NV Energy, and Tucson Electric Power own the remaining shares.

“The utility owners do not make this decision lightly,” SRP Deputy General Manager Mike Hummel said in a statement. “However, SRP has an obligation to provide low-cost service to our more than 1 million customers and the higher cost of operating NGS would be borne by our customers.”

While shuttering the plant may make economic sense for the utilities, regulators are worried about the regional impact. Earlier this month, Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin called for an "emergency summit" to address the potential job losses related to closing down plant.

Tobin stressed that almost 3,000 Navajo Nation jobs are in jeopardy, and in a letter to SRP leadership said they face "economic devestation." The utility "must fully explain to the tribes and the people of Arizona how it plans to address the human toll the company will cause if NGS closes," he wrote.

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A Canadian City Thrives on Gas, Like a ‘Wealthy Little Country’

By CRAIG S. SMITHFEB. 15, 2017


A plant that produces methanol using natural gas on the outskirts of Medicine Hat, in Alberta’s badlands. Medicine Hat is built above the largest and oldest pool of natural gas in Canada.


Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — This isolated river city smack dab in the middle of Alberta’s badlands is a little bit like Norway. Both have sizable oil and gas reserves that spin big money relative to their small populations.

Now, Medicine Hat is setting up the equivalent of Norway’s famous sovereign wealth fund, a pool of money that should make more money for generations to come.

“We could separate from the world, and we’d be totally self-sufficient,” said Ted Clugston, the mayor, sipping coffee in Medicine Hat’s award-winning, architectural designed brick-and-glass City Hall. “We’d be a very, very wealthy little country, except we have no military.”

Medicine Hat is one of the last cities in North America to own its energy resources; it has more than 4,000 gas wells and hopes to grow its oil production from 1,500 to as much as 5,000 barrels of oil a day.

It has its own gas-fired power plant and is a leader in municipally owned renewable energy, with a wind farm and a solar thermal power plant. The city even provides incentives to homeowners to buy solar electric panels.

The city was once known in the United States as a source of bad weather: Because one of the few weather stations in Western Canada was there, United States weather reports often stated that storms were “coming down from Medicine Hat.” In fact, however, Medicine Hat is one of the sunniest places in Canada, with more than 2,500 hours of sunshine a year.



A power plant in the city. Medicine Hat is one of the last cities in North America to own its energy resources and has more than 4,000 gas wells.


Aaron Vincent Elkaim for The New York Times

The city’s curious name comes from an indigenous legend that a Blackfoot shaman lost his feathered war bonnet — called a medicine hat by early settlers — in a battle with the Cree and that the headdress was later found near an oxbow bend in the river. The place became known as Medicine Hat.

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