Published on September 24th, 2018 | by Cynthia Shahan0
Shift In Navajo Country As Coal Plant That Navajo Community Doesn’t Want Is Dropped
September 24th, 2018 by Cynthia Shahan
CleanTechnica wishes blessings and a thank you to Nicole Horseherder, Refugio Mata, Carol Davis, Percy Deal, and all others who have worked to keep our site abreast of the voices and circumstances of Navajo work to reclaim more healthful vocation, sustainable growth, and overall success as they work to empower their communities.
We received another update on their work to block the proposed Navajo Generating Station. Middle River Power is reportedly backing away from efforts to purchase Navajo Generating Station. In response, local Navajo community leaders issued the following statement:
“Based on economics alone, this plant was never going to make it past 2019. The time and money spent over the last year to find someone to buy the costly coal plant distracted from a clean energy transition that our people desperately need,” said Nadine Narindrankura of Tó Nizhóni Ání. “Navajo leadership needs to seize this moment. The opportunity has presented itself once more to prepare for a successful transition away from coal. The future is in renewables, not in a dead coal market. There is much to be done — the Navajo Nation should focus its efforts on building the 500MW of renewable energy using the transmission lines negotiated on the current lease agreement on NGS.”
“Now that Middle River Power has withdrawn its intention to purchase the Navajo Generating Station, all attention should now be directed toward developing new economic opportunities that will support the plant workers, the mine workers, and the Tribes that had grown overly dependent on coal revenue,” said Percy Deal, local Navajo Nation resident. “The Navajo and Hopi lands are ideal for new solar power development, and building new clean energy infrastructure can support new jobs and revenue opportunities. Local families have never taken our eyes off of what we have been praying for — for our livelihoods to be on a path to recovery after all this is said and done.”
“The clock is ticking to go full charge ahead on diversifying the Navajo Nation’s economy, investing in renewable energy, and creating sustainable economic development,” said Carol Davis of Diné CARE. “We also need to have a plan for the reclamation and the remediation of our land after decades of pollution, and we need to discontinue the industrial use of the Navajo Aquifer and from the Colorado River, which has been depleted due to NGS and Kayenta coal mine operations.” coal mine operations.”
It should be noted that no new coal power plants were installed in the first half of the year (H1 2018), and coal-fueled electricity generation declined by 32,029 gigawatt-hours in H1 2018 compared to H1 2017. The electricity generation drop comes alongside a 16 gigawatt drop in overall coal capacity from H1 2017 to H1 2018. We covered these topics recently in our US electricity capacity and US electricity generation reports. Why a coal power plant would be built on Navajo lands at such a time is bewildering — it is not logical. Coal is too expensive and also harms human health.
Last week, I spoke to Nicole Horseherder directly. In case you missed her insights from moments after a protest in NYC, here they are again:
“In this day and age if you look at what’s happening today, I mean, you’ve got the highest office in the United States government pushing to continue coal and promising to help the coal companies come back. Right. Even though he knows this can’t happen. He knows that people don’t want coal, people don’t want energy from coal anymore. People want to buy something cleaner, they want to buy something cheaper of course — and this is not coal anymore. Today we’re not only up against the president of the United States, today we are up against powerful companies. This is like fossil fuels’ last push, to make something out of a dying industry — the last hurrah.
“Today we have all the expertise in the world. We have economists and all kinds of financial experts and they’re telling us this is not viable anymore.”
Regarding that “distraction,” as Nadine Narindrankura said of Tó Nizhóni Ání, “The time and money spent over the last year to find someone to buy the costly coal plant distracted from a clean energy transition that our people desperately need.”
The caution of Nicole Horseherder’s, Carol Davis’s, Nadine Narindrankura’s, Percy Deal’s work suggests that old saying, “don’t eat your seed corn.” The chance for economic and ecological improvement — without eating “the seed corn” — is there. The time for renewable energy jobs and energy on Navajo lands is now.
I have been told by a law enforcement person who studies criminal behavior that distraction is often used. It is not only in this case, yet the Navajo people fighting coal power describe it effectively. This work of distraction by vested interests is a work of annihilating what little time we have to transition to renewables. We are facing a climate of epidemic proportion in my opinion in our American culture. We are distracted from a “grounded” focus, from a viable foot forward and pragmatic, more humanitarian goals. Again and again, people are distracted by many things while time runs thin. We need to break this pattern, and these Navajo activists are working to do that. We should all take a lesson or two from it.