FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Two northern Arizona tribes that lost millions of dollars in annual revenue with the closure of a coal-fired power plant in southern Nevada are set to benefit from the sale of pollution credits.
Coal mined from the Navajo and Hopi reservations and sent exclusively to the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin through a 273-mile slurry line was a major source of revenue and jobs for the tribes. The plant closed in 2005, leaving its owners with credit for sulfur dioxide emissions that could be sold as part of a program to control acid rain.
The tribes and conservationists successfully went after revenue that the plant's majority owner, Southern California Edison, could generate from the sales. The California Public Utilities Commission voted this week to direct the money to renewable energy projects that could be located on or off the reservations but that would have to benefit the tribes.
Southern California Edison had proposed that the proceeds from the sales be credited to its 4 million to 5 million customers.
"It's not a big dollar amount for our customers," said project manager Paul Klapka. "But it was always the principle of the thing. These are assets we got on behalf of the ratepayers."
Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust praised the commission's decision as a sign of environmental justice. He said it "affirms the need to offer some opportunity to those who have sacrificed so much for Southern Californians to enjoy decades of cheap power."
At least $3.5 million sits in a fund from sales so far, but future revenue projections are wide-ranging because of the market's instability. The commission said it is "reasonable to conclude that the value will not be very large."
Southern California Edison has about 29,000 credits a year that it can sell, based on emissions per ton. The average price per allowance between April 2011 and August 2011 was $3.50, down significantly from the $101 average from October 2007 to August 2011, according to the commission's documents.