Coal-Fired Power Plants
Four Corners Power Plant
Operating since 1963 and located about 15 miles west of Farmington, NM, the Four Corners Power Plant is currently undergoing an environmental impact review process to renew its lease for an additional 25 years. The current lease expires in 2016 and the plant obtains 100% of its coal from the mine-mouth Navajo Mine, which was formerly owned and operated by BHP Billiton, an Australian corporation. The Navajo Mine is currently owned by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC (NTEC), but BHP Billiton continues to operate the Navajo Mine through 2016, when the mine lease expires.
Known as the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), this is the first time an environmental assessment is being completed in the 50 years of operations at the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine. The 1,500 page draft EIS (DEIS) was released on March 27, 2014 and the public was given 60 days to review the DEIS and provide comments. The Diné people did not think 60 days was enough time to read the 1,500 page study and provide thorough comments, and therefore, requested the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to extend the comment period. Four Chapters – Dilkon Chapter, Shiprock Chapter, Whiterock Chapter, and Teec Nos Pos Chapter passed resolutions requesting the OSM for a 60-day extension on the DEIS comment period. In addition, the Diné Medicine Men Association and the District 9 Grazing Committee passed similar resolutions. On May 16, 2014, a 30-day extension on the DEIS comment period was extended.
More information on the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine will be forthcoming.
The proposed coal-fired Desert Rock power plant on the Navajo Nation is far from reality. In June 2007, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released for public review and Draft EIS hearings were held in July 2007 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to garner public input about how, and if, the project should move forward. 99% of the Navajos who spoke at the hearings widely opposed the project, citing numerous deficiencies of the draft EIS which include lack of lease agreements, water analyses and usage, existing disproportionate health impacts, and issues of environmental justice. While the heart of the Draft EIS is to analyze reasonable alternatives to Desert Rock, any worthwhile mention of wind and solar technology to maximize economic benefit, employment opportunities, and minimize environmental degradation was absent in the draft EIS.
Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (Diné CARE) has commissioned a report of renewable alternatives to the Desert Rock Energy project. The forthcoming report presents wind, solar, and energy-efficient technologies, which are cost-effective, and presently available. Renewables would provide sustainable benefits for the Navajo Nation, including lifelong clean jobs, greater economic opportunity, and support for a healthier environment. The Nation is geographically positioned to be a national, even global, leader in Renewable Energy power production.
“We have drawn the line in the sand,” states Dailan J. Long, Diné CARE Community Organizer in Burnham, New Mexico, “No Power Plant. Numerous Congressional delegates and representatives have publicly voiced their opposition against Desert Rock and the need for public citizens to do the same is critical at this stage of Desert Rock. People need to write letters to the Editor of their local newspapers, congressional representatives, and engage in public forums about the cumulative costs of coal and the need for renewables.”
A total of 54,000 plus comments were submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for the Draft EIS for Desert Rock. In July 2007, public hearings on the draft were held in surrounding communities of the proposed site in the Four Corners of New Mexico and 99% of the individuals who spoke at the hearings expressed their opposition to the proposed coal plant.
The Draft EIS notes that Desert Rock would be a third power plant within a 15-mile vicinity of two existing plants, in an area already “disproportionately impacted [by the] clustering of industrial facilities.” The Draft EIS conveys the idea that providing cheap electricity to other states was more important than the people’s health.
Some of the comments made by impacted citizens included the deficiencies of the Draft EIS which include the lack of quantifiable health statistics, land and water lease agreements, and analyses of reasonable alternatives to the project. Other individuals expressed their discontent at the Navajo government in undertaking the project and ignoring the legacy of pollution in the Four Corners region.
The BIA, in accordance of the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), must review and respond to each comment made during the public comment for the Final EIS for Desert Rock. Diné CARE expects the Record of Decision to be issued in early 2008 but asserts that Desert Rock will not become reality given the sound technical opposition to the project.
The final Air Quality Permit for Desert Rock, which was expected in April 2007, has yet to be released and hopeful Presidential Candidate, Bill Richardson, has announced his opposition to Desert Rock, calling forth “formal government to government” consultation between New Mexico and the Navajo Nation regarding Desert Rock’s potential emissions of 12.7 million tons of CO2.
Desert Rock faces large obstacles given the lack of permits and future legislation regarding greenhouse gases and climate change. The proponents of Desert Rock originally projected construction to have started in 2005 but they have failed to make real progress. The necessary air permit is still outstanding, and the project cannot move forward without federal EPA approval. Diné CARE encourages concerned citizens to write their congressional representatives and advocate for renewable energy projects such as wind and solar. There are better alternatives to Desert Rock.
Download the full study or the executive summary: Alternative energy will employ more people and is the way of the future for the Navajo.
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Video and Photos of Desert Rock Resistance
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