In a Washington Post syndicated column, George Will addresses the federal government’s heavy hand on the Navajo Nation’s biggest employer: the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). The NGS, located on the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona, is fueled by coal from the nearby Kayenta Mine, co-owned by the Navajo and Hopi nations.
The plant’s ability to continue operating is threatened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is considering enacting rules that would require the Station to be equipped with costly emission control technologies that could run upward of $1.1 billion. The EPA claims the NGS is “near” 11 national parks. Will clarifies that several of these parks are located 175 miles away. If the EPA implements the proposed environmental rules, and the plant cannot make the capital investments, it may be forced to shut down prematurely. (The current lease is set to expire in 2019, but negotiations are underway to extend operations. If the power plant is closed, an Arizona State University (ASU) study projects Arizona could take an $18 billion hit in gross state product between 2017 and 2044, in addition to eliminating up to 3,400 jobs each year.)
Will refers to the ASU study to explain the unclear benefits to this expensive and labor intensive upgrade: “research to date … is inconclusive as to whether” there would be “any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon and other areas of concern.”
In addition to providing electricity to customers in Arizona, Nevada and California, the NGS powers the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which pumps water to Navajos in Arizona. “A study sponsored by the Interior Department estimates that the EPA’s mandate might increase the cost of water by as much as 32 percent, hitting agriculture users especially hard,” Will notes.
According to Will, the federal government “seems determined to inflict, for angelic motives and progressive goals, economic damage on this state. And economic and social damage on American Indians, who over the years have experienced quite enough of that at Washington’s hands.”
Read his full column here.