The Mohave Generating Station (Mohave) is a two-unit, coal-fired power plant located in Laughlin, Nevada. Southern California Edison Company (SCE) is the plant operator and owns a 56% undivided interest in Mohave which entitles SCE to approximately 885 Megawatts (MW). Pursuant to the terms of a 1999 Consent Decree1 specific environmental controls must be installed at Mohave for it to continue in operation post 2005. On May 17, 2002, SCE filed an application seeking Commission authorization to either make the necessary environmental expenditures, or close the plant.
Mohave obtains all of its coal supply from the Black Mesa coal mine which is located approximately 273 miles east of Mohave in northeast Arizona. The mine is on lands of the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation. The coal is transported from the mine to Mohave by a coal-slurry pipeline that requires that the coal be pulverized and mixed with water near the mine site to produce the slurry. Once the slurry mixture reaches Mohave, the water is extracted and the coal is dried. The water source for the slurry process and for all other water requirements of the mine is the N-Aquifer. The aquifer and a well serving it are also on the land of the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation.
Approximately 4,400 acre-feet per year is extracted from the N-Aquifer to slurry the coal. The Hopi Tribe opposes the further pumping of the N-Aquifer after 2005. Beginning in 2001, SCE and the other Mohave co-owners restarted past efforts to develop an alternative water source to the N-Aquifer for the slurry line. During the pendency of SCE's application, the parties determined that the only potentially viable alternative is the C-Aquifer. In addition to the uncertain water supply, coal supply has also come into question.
In D.04-12-016, the Commission, among other actions, authorized SCE to continue working on resolution of the essential water and coal issues, including the funding of the C-Aquifer hydro-geological and environmental studies. Once the questions of available water and coal are assessed, the Commission will review those costs and determine if it can make a final decision on the future of Mohave as a coal-fired plant.
Numerous parties participated in this proceeding, including: The Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Salt River Agricultural Improvement and Power District, the Center for Energy and Economic Development, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), Office of Ratepayer Advocates (ORA), Natural Resources Defense Council, and WEC.
Nine parties filed protests to SCE's application. On October 11, 2002, a combined Prehearing Conference (PHC) and Public Participation Hearing was held at the Navajo Chapter House in Tuba City, Arizona. On January 7, 2003, the assigned Commissioner issued a Scoping Memo; a second PHC was held May 23, 2003, and evidentiary hearings were held June 14 through July 9, 2004. Concurrent opening and reply briefs were filed August 9 and August 24, 2004, respectively; the proposed decision (PD) was mailed on October 20, 2004; final oral argument was heard on November 30, 2004; comments and reply comments to the PD were received, and on December 2, 2004, the Commission issued its decision in the proceeding. No applications for rehearing or petitions for modification were filed. The proceeding is closed.
WEC actively participated in all phases of the proceeding focusing on water issues and the solar alternative. WEC submitted testimony eight times, filed opening and reply briefs and comments on the PD, and participated in PHCs, hearings, and oral argument.
WEC provided a unique perspective in this proceeding. WEC represented the indigenous people living on Black Mesa-the people who will be significantly affected by the Commission's decision on whether to continue the operation of Mohave as a coal-burning plant, or to close it. As such, WEC represented members of both the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. While the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation each had its own representative in the proceeding, WEC expressed the voice from Black Mesa-the area where the coal is mined. The Black Mesa area is a vast empty area in which most of the inhabitants do not have access to telephone, e-mail or computer service.
WEC also provided the Commission with information on the spiritual significance of Black Mesa groundwater to both the Hopi and Navajo cultures and why the N-Aquifer may no longer be used as a source of water after 2005 to slurry the coal from the Black Mesa mine area to the Mohave plant in Laughlin, Nevada. WEC provided information on the significance of water issues, in general, to residents of the Four Corners area of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.1 Mohave Environmental Consent Decree settled a federal civil lawsuit, CV-S-98-00305-LDG (RJJ), that was filed in 1997 by Grand Canyon Trust, Inc., Sierra Club, Inc., and National Parks and Conservation Association, Inc. against SCE and the other Mohave co-owners alleging various air quality violations at Mohave. SCE and the other co-owners were signatories to the 1999 Consent Decree.