SRP begins work to transition workers, economy away from coal

The Coronado Generating Station (CGS) in St. John’s, AZ. Credit: SRP.

Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP) announced in January 2020 plans to close its Coronado Generating Station (CGS), a coal-fired power plant, no later than 2032 and to reduce its workforce by 40% by 2025. Last week SRP announced that it is putting together and economic transition plan to help the community make the transition.

In the announcement, SRP said it is supporting all CGS employees interested in staying with the utility and will be providing training and career exploration opportunities as well as relocation benefits. In addition, SRP said it will help the entire CGS community throughout its transition from CGS as a main economic base. To do so, SRP created the Coal Communities Transtion Team, in partnership with stakeholders at the city of St. Johns, Apache County, and all nearby impacted communities reliant on CGS.

The SRP Coal Communities Transition Team combines executives and leaders throughout various departments. The team has begun work on a community engagement plan which consists of four stages: conducting preliminary assessments of the community; developing economic and workforce plans; executing on the plans; and determining post-plant support.

One of the team’s overarching goals is to create a model that other transitioning coal communities across the state and nation can reference and build upon. The team will inform stakeholders and federal-level policymakers of the communities’ needs to ensure they have a voice and get support.

“Federal-level interest in helping communities impacted by coal-plant closures continues to grow and we believe there are many opportunities ahead,” said Kelly Barr, Chief Strategy, Corporate Services and Sustainability Executive at SRP. “We will work with our counterparts in these communities to explore what is possible as they push forward. SRP will also inform community members and all engaged stakeholders of progress being made throughout the transition plan process and secure partnerships as appropriate.”

SRP said it has supported communities through the economic impacts associated with coal-plant closures in the past, most recently with of the closure of the largest coal-fired power plant in the West, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), near the small city of Page, Ariz. on the Navajo Reservation. The NGS community transition involved Page evolving from an energy and tourism-based economy to one that is now completely tourism-based. SRP also committed to helping all interested NGS employees transition to new positions within other SRP facilities.

“Supporting the NGS community revealed insights on how to minimize stress and disruption felt by workers, families and communities,” said Gretchen Kitchel, Executive Public Affairs Strategist at SRP. “Listening to community members and understanding the unique needs of the CGS and St. Johns community is a vital first step in developing a meaningful strategy.”

SRP will work with stakeholders at all levels to help identify the valued assets in the larger St. Johns community and define how best to uphold these mainstays while properly addressing the community’s evolving needs. In the years leading up to the full operational shutdown of CGS in 2032, as well as in the years following, SRP said it will continue engaging with St. Johns and Apache County stakeholders to help ensure the communities are leading a successful economic transition.

SRP is a community-based, not-for-profit public power utility and the largest provider of electricity in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving more than 1 million customers.

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