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As the Market for Coal Ends, A New Clean Energy Economy Can Arise

Navajo Generating Station is closing. The time for an economic future is now to heal our land and benefit local communities.
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“I envision our land and people liberated from the shackles of fossil fuel dependence.”

Nadine Narindrankura,

Tó Nizhóní Ání

A transition plan

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) Building clean energy

Navajo 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, the federal government, and Peabody cannot be allowed to simply walk away and lock the gate behind them. NGS and coal mining operations were 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 those that profited for decades off of the use of Navajo resources can walk away from their obligations to the tribal governments and the workers and communities that have come to rely on the plant and the work from the mines. 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.

“The clock is ticking. We need to have a plan now to invest in renewable energy, diversify the Navajo Nation’s economy, and clean up and restore our land and water after decades of pollution.”

Carol Davis,

Diné C.A.R.E.

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