The view from the rim of the Grand Canyon will be clearer, thanks to a major cleanup at one of the Southwest's largest coal-burning power plants. Owners of the Mohave Generating Station in southern Nevada and environmental groups announced the news Oct. 3, following a court settlement.
"This is a big win for the environment both in the Mohave Valley and the Grand Canyon area. It means that one of the dirtiest power plants in the Southwest will become one of the cleanest," says Rob Smith of the Sierra Club, which sued alongside the Grand Canyon Trust, claiming the plant was violating the Clean Air Act.
Mohave disgorges 40,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 10,000 tons of soot into the air annually and is a major contributor to the pollution obscuring the Grand Canyon 75 miles to the east (HCN, 3/2/98). The settlement assures that by 2006, Southern California Edison, the majority owner of Mohave, will spend $300 million on filters and scrubbers that will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 85 percent and particulates by 99 percent.
The company's other option is to close the plant, but that is unlikely, since the deal will improve Edison's competitive position in a deregulated market and avoid years of litigation. "We had made a commitment to install controls last December," says Nader Monsour of Southern California Edison, adding that the settlement will just accelerate the work and increase some controls.
Rick Moore with the Grand Canyon Trust points out that Edison announced its plan only after environmentalists sued: "The reality is that if we hadn't filed the lawsuit, nobody would be talking about cleaning that plant up today."
* Alex Witzeman