(Bloomberg) — In the end, the unraveling economics of 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 Donald Trump’s campaign to save America’s coal industry, the Navajo complex in the Arizona desert will now spend the next three years being dismantled and decommissioned.
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 close it in 2017 but struck a deal with leaders of the Navajo Nation to keep it going for another two years. The facility, which once produced enough power to light up 1.7 million homes, sits on Navajo land in the Four Corners area of Arizona and was a major source of jobs in the region.
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 Ryan Zinke vowed to explore all options for rescuing the site.
For all its political ties, the Navajo complex proved no match against market forces. The shale boom unleashed record volumes of…