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Environmental Protection Agency to review Apache power plant's clean air plan

The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to review a clean air plan submitted by owners of the Apache Generating Station coal-fired power plant. The move is considered unusual for the EPA, because it may allow the plant to install less expensive technology than required by the federal government. Apache is the smallest of three Arizona coal-fired power plants required to upgrade their clean air systems. The nonprofit co-op that owns the Apache plant near Benson said its plan would do more to reduce coal haze, and it wants to convert one of its two burners to natural gas.

The other burner would continue using coal, but high tech equipment would reduce nitrogen oxide. Spokesman Geoff Oldfather said Apache’s plan would cost $30 million while the EPA’s proposal is nearly $200 million, and he said it is important to keep rates down for consumers.

“The impact would have been seven to eight times greater on the people who use our power than those who are customers of the larger utilities because they have rate bases of a million people plus," Oldfather said.

Apache serves about 350,000 customers. Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City and Coronado Generating Station near Springerville also are required to make upgrades. EPA is expected to make a decision on Apache’s proposal by the end of the year.