One of the largest coal power plants on the West Coast will be shutting down at the end of 2019. Navajo Generating Station’s utility owners—Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy and Tucson Electric Power—voted yesterday (February 13) to extend the Arizona-based plant’s lease with the Navajo Nation until then to help preserve employment at the plant, most of which goes to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.
The plant is closing due to the energy industry’s changing economics, the plant’s press release states. It highlights that natural gas is a “viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power”—a stark contrast to President Donald Trump’s assertions that regulations have killed the coal industry.
The owners have also invited the Nation or others to operate the plant after 2019 if they are interested, but the group hasn’t expressed any intention to do so. The Navajo Nation Council released a statement via Facebook and wrote:
Speaker LoRenzo Bates said that while Monday’s vote provides positive stability, Salt River Project and the other owners must continue working with Navajo leaders to develop long-term solutions that take into account the potential loss of revenue and jobs, and the economic impact that a shutdown would have on the entire state in 2019.
“Today’s decision is the first step in the right direction for all stakeholders,” said Speaker Bates. “As leaders of the Navajo Nation, we are very concerned about the workforce – the hundreds of Navajo families that make a living from NGS and the many more jobs and revenues that are created from secondary markets. The benefits of NGS go well beyond the Navajo Nation and extend throughout the state of Arizona.”
The Navajo Nation also noted that revenues from the station and Kayenta Mine, which brings coal to the plant, account for over 80 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s general fund budget and over 30 percent of the Navajo Nation’s annual revenues.
In response, the Nation has created a task force that will work with plant officials to find a solution to the impending economic impacts.
While this decision has the potential to have damaging economic consequences, it would benefit people’s health and environment. The plant emits 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, High Country News reports.