Four Corners Generating Station

Located where the state borders of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado converge, the Four Corners Power Plant sits in Fruitland, New Mexico, on the Navajo reservation. Near the San Juan River, whose waters it uses for cooling, and taking advantage of coal in the area, it delivers power to several states from this central point away from large towns and cities.

The Four Corners Plant generates 2,040 megawatts from five units that burn coal to produce electricity, making it one of the largest coal-burning plants in the United States, consuming 28,000 tons of coal each day. In operation since 1963, it reached its maximum capacity in 1971 with the completion of the fifth unit. The plant employs nearly 600 workers and supplies more than 300,000 households in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. Operated by its majority owner, Arizona Public Service Company, its other owners include Tucson Power, Salt River, El Paso, and Southern California Edison companies.

Coal burning plants release fly ash into the atmosphere, as well as nitrogen oxide and other contaminants. Four Corners Generating Station is reportedly one of the dirtiest power plants in the United States. Part of the reason was the owners’ attitude that the plant’s remote location made environmental protection less of a concern. In addition, disputes among the Navajo Nation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New Mexico State over jurisdiction have resulted in very little regulation of the plant. The disagreements have left Four Corners operating with no pollution permit or other controls enforced on similar plants. However, modifications have been made and upgrades added recently to reduce emissions and improve the atmosphere.

In the past, most power plants, likely including Four Corners Generating Station, factories and mills commonly used asbestos to protect workers, machinery, and buildings from high temperatures, flame and electricity. Intended for the workers’ safety, its use had the opposite effect, unfortunately, as workers exposed to asbestos dust were at risk for serious health problems and even fatal diseases. The tiny particles released when asbestos is handled or begins to break down are inhaled and embed themselves into the lining of the lungs and other organs. There they cause respiratory ailments which may evolve into cancerous tumors called mesothelioma. This is an exceptionally deadly form of cancer and due to its long latency, can surface and present symptoms many years after exposure, even after workers are no longer employed or subject to asbestos.