Putting hydro in perspective
September 4, 2012
Maurice Emmer is asking where coal-fired electric production takes place and where the coal comes from in an Aspen Times letter to the editor (“Only the mayor’s opinion matters,” Aug. 30).
“Where does that happen? In Nebraska, Idaho, Texas? Where does the coal come from? West Virginia?” are the questions asked.
Well, I know where a good portion of this happens. I visited the following operations during a college class trip in 1992, and they are a lot closer to home.
The Black Mesa region of northeastern Arizona is home to the largest coal deposit in the U.S., at 21 billion tons. Peabody Western Coal began strip mining there in 1968 and has been North America’s largest strip-mining operation until recently.
A slurry pipeline 273 miles long transports the coal to the Mohave Generation Station in Laughlin, Nev. Peabody has pumped more than 1 billion gallons of water from the Black Mesa aquifer each year to make the coal into slurry. This, needless to say, has contributed to a substantial loss for groundwater to the Black Mesa aquifer.
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The second mine at Black Mesa is the Kayenta Mine, and it supplies coal to the Navajoe Generation Station in Page, Ariz. This station cost $650 million to construct, including $200 million for environmental-control equipment. An additional $420 million was spent on new sulfur dioxide scrubbers in the 1990s, and $45 million was spent from 2009 to 2011 to reduce nitrous oxide emissions.
In 2005, the Mohave Generation Station was shut down due to a Clean Air Act lawsuit and because the Navajo and Hopi tribes both passed resolutions ending Peabody’s use of the Black Mesa aquifer. The plant had been targeted as a major source of pollution in the Grand Canyon and other locations to the east, such as Aspen. The Environmental Protection Agency labeled the Mohave Generation station as the dirtiest in the western U.S., emitting 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per year.
So, based on the facts listed above, I really don’t see how a hydroelectric generation station on a stream in Aspen could be any worse! With all the “ideas” that are allegedly coming out of Aspen, why not give it a go? Run in when streamflows are high, and limit it when they get low. After all, that new Aspen Art Museum is gonna need a fair amount of electricity to light it up.