February 23, 2018 Read More →

Op-Ed: With Power Plant Closure, Navajo Nation Must Seek a Better Future

Arizona Capital Times:

I keep expecting to see leadership actively involving communities that have been impacted by the coal mining and the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) power plant. But there is a disturbing silence from Navajo leadership.

As a coal company, Peabody won’t face facts that the market for its product is ending. Wealthy executives of a multinational corporation can afford to live in that bubble. Working families cannot. I have relatives who work at Peabody’s Kayenta mine, so this is personal to me, too.

The reality in this case is that there are no longer buyers for Peabody’s Kayenta mine coal. The buyers of power from NGS, which the Kayenta mine supplies, have all concluded that it’s too expensive compared to alternatives. They are closing the power plant in 2019. With no buyers for the power, there is no new owner to emerge.

I learned about the proposal by Commissioner Andy Tobin for the state to get 80 percent of its power from clean energy by 2050. That is promising. With so much electricity transmission infrastructure already in place on Navajo Nation, our communities can be put to work building and operating this next generation of solar and wind power to serve the Southwest.

More progress is needed, and quickly, for renewable energy to truly deliver the economic impact we need. It’s also vital that this next energy era be developed in a way that doesn’t again see so much of the benefit flowing only over the heads of local communities. More than 15,000 residents on Navajo Nation still have no electric service to their homes.

Locking us into another fossil fuel future isn’t smart economically. It’s definitely not smart for water. Every gas well sucks millions of gallons of water and gas power plants demand a constant source of water for cooling, just like coal. Solar and wind generation, meanwhile, need none.

Renewable energy is an essential part of the solution for our Navajo economy and jobs after coal. I hope more will make the drive to the Phoenix with me next time we need to speak up at the ACC, including our Navajo elected officials. Peabody executives who are denying market realities, while keeping their own golden parachutes near, are not our answer.

More: Time for Navajos to move on from coal to renewable energy

 

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