A transition plan
The owners of NGS have announced that they want to close the plant because it has become too expensive to operate in the face of far more economical ways to provide electricity to their customers than burning coal.
Given the impact that this plant has had on the environment, workers, and health of local families ― many of whom still maintain traditional farming, livestock, and grazing livelihoods ― it’s important that any closure plans for the plant address these four critical issues, not the least of which is ensuring that the plant closes on schedule and doesn’t operate a day longer than necessary:
1) Paving a path to clean energyNavajo and Hopi youth will need a future they can count on. The Navajo Nation is blessed with world-class wind and solar energy resources. The closure of NGS offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the plant’s existing transmission infrastructure and invest in renewable energy that can compete in today’s markets and provide a strong economic foundation for the Navajo and Hopi far into the future. Coal is not economically competitive and whether it goes away next year or sometime in the future, it is still going away. The world doesn’t need coal and all the pollution that comes with it, but it does still need energy.
2) Taking care of families and workers
NGS owners and the federal government cannot be allowed to simply walk away and lock the gate behind them. NGS was developed in part to ensure the financial stability of the Hopi and Navajo tribes.
While coal has become economically unsustainable, that does not mean that the owners can walk away from their obligations to the tribal governments and the workers and communities that have come to rely on the plant. Together, the Navajo Generating Station and the mine that feeds it employ about 800 people. Closure plans must include steps to ensure that families and workers are not left behind and forgotten. Now is the time to invest in job retraining and assistance to help the local communities in this transition.
3) Cleaning up decades of coal-related pollution
After profiting for decades from the plant and the mine that supplies coal for its operations, the owners of NGS have a moral obligation to clean up and remediate the mess they’ve made at the plant site, ensuring that the land and local water resources are returned to the Navajo in good condition.
Additionally, there should be an assessment of local pollution health impacts and strategies to address them ― including health benefits as part of any retirement package so that workers who sacrificed their health in the coal industry are taken care of.
4) Protecting life-giving water
Operations at the power plant and the associated coal mine are allowed to consume as much as 34,000 acre-feet of water a year (three times the amount used by a city of 50,000 people), much of it from the Colorado River. Coal mining operations on Black Mesa have depleted Navajo Aquifer storage by 21,000 to 53,000 acre-feet, with 90 percent of the water in the Aquifer being ancient fossil groundwater that cannot be replenished on a human time scale. This water belongs to the Navajo and Hopi and is critical to the tribes’ future prosperity.
Petition: It is time to transition to renewable energy.
To: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Speaker Lorenzo Bates, Navajo Council members, Department of Interior Acting Secretary James Cason, Bureau of Reclamations Deputy Commissioner David Palumbo, SRP General Manager Mark Bonsal and Board President, David Rousseau, and ACC Commissioners.
As the main stakeholders and architects in the development and operation of Navajo Generating Station, you have a responsibility to ensure that transition plans for the plant’s closure benefit the Navajo and Hopi, their communities and people. NGS was developed in part to ensure the financial stability of the tribes, and while coal has become economically unsustainable, that does not mean the owners and federal government can walk away from their moral and financial obligations to help secure tribal economic prosperity.
The closure of the Navajo Generating Station represents an opportunity both to make amends for decades of pollution and injustice perpetuated on the Navajo people and to map out a far more sustainable future through clean energy. Navajo grassroots groups are urging the following to ensure a just transition and we call on you to speak out in support of:
1. Remediation and cleanup of the plant and return land and water that have been impacted by more than four decades of coal burning to the Navajo and Hopi in healthy condition;
2. Developing the vast renewable energy potential of the region as a replacement for power from NGS;
3. Ensuring job training and economic development assistance for the workers and communities that will be affected most by the closure;
4. Securing Navajo rights to the 50,000 acre-feet of water that are currently tied to the operation of the plant and the associated coal mine, and to transmission capacity that will connect wind and solar projects developed on tribal lands to Western energy markets.