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.
“The utility owners do not make this decision lightly,” said Mike Hummel, deputy general manager of Salt River Project, which operates the plant and owns it along with several utility companies and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
“NGS and its employees are one reason why this region, the state of Arizona and the Phoenix metropolitan area have been able to grow and thrive,” he added in a statement. “However, [its owners have] 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.”
Environmental activists welcomed the prospect of closing the plant, one of the biggest polluters in the country. The Navajo Generating Station was third on a 2014 Environmental Protection Agency list of major carbon-emitting facilities. Read more in the Washington Post.