Opponent of Closing the Navajo Generating Station Open

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Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin wanted the Navajo Generating Station kept open because of the nearly 3,000 Navajo Nation jobs that will be lost with its closure. Tobin will talk about his concerns.

TED: WE CONTINUE OUR DISCUSSION REGARDING THE NAVAJO GENERATING STATION WITH AN ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSIONER WHO ARGUES THAT CLOSING THE PLANT COULD RESULT IN WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS ECONOMIC DEVESTATION TO THE TRIBES AND TOWNS IN THE REGION. CORPORATION COMMISSIONER ANDY TOBIN JOINS US NOW ON ARIZONA HORIZON. GOOD TO SEE YOU.

ANDY TOBIN: THANKS FOR HAVING ME BACK.

TED: THE IDEA OF CLOSING THIS BY 2019. SRP SAYING IT IS NO LONGER ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE TO KEEP IT UP. WE JUST HEARD FROM A MEMBER OF THE TRIBE SAYING GO AHEAD AND GET RID OF IT. WE HAVE BETTER OPTIONS FOR THE LAND. WHERE DO YOU STAND?

ANDY TOBIN: THE PRESIDENT OF THE NAVAJO AND I WERE TOGETHER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. AND HE WANTED TO SETUP A SUMMIT TO KEEP THE NAVAJO GENERATING STATION. SO THE PRESIDENT OF THE NAVAJO ORGANIZATION IS ALL IN. I MET WITH SPEAKER UP THERE AND THEY WERE ALL ON BOARD. THE RISK IS $150 MILLION A YEAR. AND A $100 IS SALARIES AND BENEFITS FOR THOSE WORKING IN BOTH AREAS.

TED: THE SRP IS SAYING, OR HAS SAID, FOR A COUPLE YEARS AT BEST, THE PLANT CAN NO LONGER GENERATE POWER AT A COMPETITIVE PRICE. DO THEY HAVE A POINT THERE?

ANDY TOBIN: YEAH, BECAUSE OF THE LOW COST OF NATURAL GAS I THINK THEY HAVE A POINT. BUT IN NOVEMBER 18, THEY ARE LOOKING TO GO TO THE BOND MARKET AND TELLING FOLKS IN 57 PAGES IT IS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR BOND. THEY DIDN'T TELL EVERYBODY THEY WERE CLOSING THE PLANT. IT WAS AS EARLY AS AUGUST THEY WERE SAYING THEY WERE NOT. THEY WERE TELLING IN THE BUSINESS JOURNAL IT WAS LONG TIME INTEREST TO KEEP THE PLANT. THEY ARE TELLING EVERYBODY IN NO LESS THAN THREE OR FOUR DOCUMENTS WE WANT TO KEEP THIS OPEN. WHAT HAPPENED SO QUICK? WHY ARE WE ON THE FAST TRACK TO CLOSE IT? THEY ARE JUST AN AWFUL LOT OF QUESTIONS THAT ARE OUT THERE BEFORE THEY DECIDE THAT -- THE PEOPLE IN PAGE, THE MAYOR CALLED ME, THE PEOPLE THERE ARE CALLING THEIR REALTOR WONDERING WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THEIR HOME PRICE.

TED: YOU MENTION KEEPING THE PLANT OPEN. ARE THERE OPTIONS? CAN THE NAVAJO NATION TAKE A STAKE IN THE PLANT? IF THE PLANT STAYS OPEN AND THEY ARE NOT GENERATING ELECTRICITY AS A VALUABLE PRICE WHAT IS THE POINT?

ANDY TOBIN: THE NAVAJO OPERATE FOUR CORNERS. THAT IS A COAL PLANT NOT TOO FAR AWAY FROM HERE. THEY ARE PROFITABLE AND HAVE BEEN DOING A GOOD JOB. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT JUST GOING TO NATURAL GAS, I CAN SHARE WITH YOU TED, WE HAVE EXPERTS TELLING US THAT THE NATURAL GAS COLLISION WE HAD IN 2010, IN SEVEN MINUTES WE WERE OUT OF POWER. MY QUESTIONS ARE LET'S GO TO NATURAL GAS. WHERE DO WE STORE IT? WE HAVE NO STORAGE. WHAT IS THE COST OF GENERATION? WE DON'T KNOW THOSE ANSWERS EITHER IS I AM NOT SURE WE DON'T GET A CHANCE TO NARROW THE DIFFERENCE.

TED: CONVERTING TO NATURAL GAS IS MORE PROBLEMATIC THAN IT LOOKS ON THE SURFACE?

ANDY TOBIN: I HAVEN'T GOTTEN AN ANSWER. PEABODY COAL IS IN BANKRUPTCY. BERRY GOLDWATER, CARL HAYDEN PUT THIS THING TOGETHER FOR A REASON. THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE WHERE ARIZONA HAS ITS OWN BURNING COAL PLANT. EVERYBODY ELSE IS BURNING OUT OF STATE COAL. I WANT TO KNOW WHY WE HAVE TO BULLDOZE THIS ONE. IF SRP THINKS, IT IS BAD DEAL PUT IT ON THE MARKET.

TED: THE TRIBAL MEMBER WE HAD JUST SAID HE WOULD LOVE TO SEE THE SHIFT TO SOLAR AND WIND POWER. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?

ANDY TOBIN: SURE. ARIZONA IS BIG ON SOLAR. BUT CALIFORNIA IS PAYING US TO TAKE SOLAR GENERATION. IN NEW YORK STATE ALONE, THEY ARE PAYING MONEY TO THEIR NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS BECAUSE THAT GENERATION OF THEIR RENEWABLE IS HURTING THE PRICE OF THEIR NUCLEAR AND THEY ARE SUPLANTING THAT. WE NEED A LOT OF TOOLS IN THE TOOLBOX. IT IS BASE LOAD FOR OUR ENERGY GRID AND I THINK WE ARE AT RISK UNTIL WE CHECK ALL THE BOXES.

TED: SO THE IDEA THIS PLANT COULD GENERATE 1.2 TARA WATTS SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF SOLAR ENERGY. THE IDEA YOU CAN CONVERT THAT TO THAT KIND OF A POWER PLANT YOU SAY POSSIBLE?

ANDY TOBIN: SRP ISN'T PUTTING THAT --

TED: NO, NOT SRP BUT IF THEY GO AHEAD AND SAY GOOD-BYE IT COULD HAPPEN.

ANDY TOBIN: THAT IS GOOD FOR ALL OF US. BUT WE ARE NOT TECHNOLOGY-ADVANCED YET TO USE THAT KIND OF SOLAR TO POWER WATER OUT OF THE COLORADO INTO OUR CANALS AND DRINK. MAYBE ONE DAY THAT WILL HAPPEN. MAYBE IT WILL. BUT ALSO WE HAVE COAL TECHNOLOGIES THAT ARE OUT THERE MAKING COAL, NOT JUST CHEAPER, BUT MORE EFFICIENT AND LESS DAMMING TO THE ATMOSPHERE. WE SHOULD PURSUE ALL OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES.

TED: CRITICS ARE SAYING COAL IS BEING PHASED OUT BY NATURAL GAS, RENEWABLE OR OTHERWISE. DO YOU WANT TO BE HANGING ON TO THE HORSE AND CART WHEN THE BUGGY COMES ALONG?

ANDY TOBIN: I DON'T BELIEVE WE SHOULD BE SUPPLEMENTING ANYTHING. EVERYBODY KNOWS WE HAVE BEEN SUPPLEMENTING IT. MAYBE THIS IS ONE OF THOSE THAT FADES AWAY. MAYBE WE NEED TO LOOK AT THE TECHNOLOGIES AND SAY THERE IS OTHER THINGS WE CAN DO WITH THAT. THE FOLKS ARE SAYING WE HAVE TECHNOLOGIES AND JUST NEED MONEY TO DO THE EXPERIMENTATION.

TED: DO YOU BELIEVE SRP IN SOME WAY, SHAPE OR FORM IS ANGLING FOR A FINANCIAL CONCESSION OUT OF ALL THIS?

ANDY TOBIN: WELL, WE ARE ALL SUPPOSED TO BE GOOD NEIGHBORS IN ARIZONA. I WOULD HOPE THAT IS NOT THE CASE. BUT I HAVE TO TELL YOU THEY ARE CHECKING THE BOXES AND GOING AROUND AND BUILDING UP ALL THEIR SUPPORT FOR THIS. I GET IT. BUT I WILL SHARE YOU HAVE AND I JUST TOLD YOU HOW MANY TIMES THEY SAID THIS IS PART OF THE GO FORWARD PROGRAM. I WAS SPEAKER OF HOUSE WHEN THEY SHUTDOWN ONE OF THE BURNERS IN NAVAJO BECAUSE THIS WAS LONG TERM. THIS IS VERY QUICK. I THINK THE NAVAJO AND HOPI BECAUSE OF THE HUMAN SUFFRAGE THAT WILL OCCUR IN PAGE THEY DESERVE TIME TO ACQUIRE OR SOME UP WITH OTHER SOLUTIONS.

TED: SRP SAYS THEY ARE GIVING THEM UNTIL THE END OF 2019.

ANDY TOBIN: THEY ARE NOT. IF WE DON'T HAVE A LEASE IN PLACE BY JUNE WE HAVE TO LOOK AT RECLAMATION AND GET RID OF IT.

TED: LAST QUESTION BECAUSE WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE BUT WOULD YOU ORDER THE OTHER UTILITIES, WHICH THE CORPORATION COMMITTEE DOES SUPERVISE, TO KEEP THIS PLANT OPEN?

ANDY TOBIN: I DID NOT GET AN ORDER PASSED AT OUR LAST RATE CASE WITH TUCSON ELECTRIC POWER AND I ASKED THEM IF THEY WOULD VOTE NO ON THIS ISSUE. THEY FELT IT WAS A STEP TOO FAR AND WE WITHDRAW THE AMENDMENT. BUT I ASKED FOR A BREAKDOWN ON THE LOST OF THE NAVAJO POWER PLANT.

TED: NICE TO HAVE YOU.

ANDY TOBIN: GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Andy Tobin: Arizona Corporation Commissioner

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