The Navajo Generating Station
In Northern Arizona, just 20 miles from the Grand Canyon, the largest coal-fired power plant in the west guzzles water from the Colorado River and devours coal from Black Mesa.
The Navajo Generating Station (NGS) is the 3rd largest carbon-emitting facility in the United States. The power plant’s sole coal supplier, the 100,000-acre Kayenta Mine, lies 80 miles away. An electric rail line connects the complex. Both facilities lie on tribal land. The plant is on the Navajo Nation and the mine straddles the Navajo Nation and Hopi Nation border.
NGS is the 3rd largest carbon-emitting facility in the United States. It provides power for 1 million customers in AZ, CA, and NV. It also provides water from southern Arizona by powering the Central Arizona Project, which pumps water from the Colorado River all the way to Phoenix and Tucson for all water uses.
In 2016, the owners of the NGS announced intentions to close the plant in 2019 – far sooner than the debated 2044 date. While this decision is positive for climate, the environment, and public health, the closure will have a massive economic impact on the Navajo Nation and Hopi Nation. Over the next two years, plant owners must engage in a productive conversation with tribal governments to ensure as smooth a transition away from the plant, and towards renewables, as possible.
How Tribes Built Southern Arizona
NAVAJO NATION, HOPI NATION
In the late 1960s, the government needed a power source to pump water from the Colorado River to southern Arizona cities. In response to outrage over proposed dams in the Grand Canyon, the government decided to build the Navajo Generating Station instead. They placed the power plant on the Navajo Nation. To feed it, Peabody Coal built the Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa, which straddles the Hopi Nation and Navajo Nation border. The company relocated thousands of people to make room for the 100,000 acre strip-mine.
TRANSMISSION LINE, CONNECTOR LINE
The Navajo Generating Station provides power via transmission lines directly to the utilities that serve Phoenix and Tucson and other southern cities. In all, the power plant serves over 1 million customers in AZ, NV, and CA.
In addition, nearly 25% of the power plant’s electricity goes to power pumps that transfer 1.5 million acre-feet of water from the Colorado River into the Central Arizona Project (CAP) system every year. CAP delivers the water to southern Arizona cities for all uses: agricultural, industrial, municipal, and tribal.
What are the impacts?
Paragraph on air quality impacts of the plant and mine.
Mention sulfur dioxide, particulate pollution, nitrogen oxides.
Land impacts: 100,000 acres of strip mining. Coal Ash Waste?
Sheer water use and dangers of contamination.
Closure in 2019?
- Were considering a lease extension to 2044 but didn’t have the signatures
ECONOMICS OF COAL
- Bad economics of coal
- Owners admitting that the plant is uneconomical (perhaps pull the quote into a callout?)
- Navajo Nation and Hopi revenue from the plant / mine
- ie. Mine injects $110million every year to tribes in wages, benefits, tribal payments, water fees, NTUA revenues and scholarships
- 546 employees, 90-96% from Navajo Nation, between power plant AND mine
- Bureau of Reclamation as a responsibility to the tribes to ensure a smooth transition
- Northern AZ is one of the best solar resources in the country