In the end, the unraveling economics of U.S. coal proved too much for even a giant among power generators to handle.
At 12:09 p.m. local time on Monday -- after churning out electricity for almost five decades -- the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S. permanently closed, becoming the latest testament to the fossil fuel’s decline. Once a flash point in President
The end was a long time coming for the 2.25-gigawatt Navajo plant. Its owners, led by Salt River Project, had initially planned to
Tribal leaders spent years appealing to the Trump administration for help saving the plant, characterizing it as the president’s chance to fulfill his campaign promise to revive America’s Coal Country. The fact that the Interior Department owns a 24% stake in the complex gave him all the more reason to make an example out of it. Then-Interior Secretary
For all its political ties, the Navajo complex proved no match against market forces. The shale boom unleashed record volumes of low-cost natural gas, undermining the economics of coal generators across the U.S. Cheaper and cleaner wind and solar farms also began squeezing the plant’s profits.
Coal, which once supplied more electricity in the U.S. than any other resource, now accounts for less than a quarter of the nation’s mix. Since 2010, power generators have announced the retirement of more than 500 coal-fired power plants, according to government data.
It would prove to be one of many failed attempts by Trump to help save coal plants.
Last year, his administration’s
In February, the federally operated
The owners of the Navajo plant -- which also include
Salt River said in a statement that it has offered jobs to all 433 of the employees at the Navajo plant. Almost 300 have accepted.
The Navajo plant “will always be remembered as a coal-fired workhorse,” Hummel said in the statement. The complex “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 said.
(Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority stakeholder of
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