Monday, August 31, 2015

Native American officials say power plants should get breaks under Clean Power plan

Operators of four power plants on Native American reservations, who thought they had to cut emissions by 5 percent under the Obama administration's Clean Power plan, say that final regulations that upped their reduction target to 20 percent are unfair, Naveena Sadasivam reports for InsideClimate News. Two of the four plants in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah "provide power to half a million homes and have been pinpointed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a major source of pollution––and a cause for reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon. These two plants alone emit more than 28 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, triple the emissions from facilities in Washington state."

Tribal leaders say they should receive special consideration, Sadasivam writes. Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, wrote in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, "The Navajo Nation is a uniquely disadvantaged people, and their unique situation justified some accommodation." Shelly said "the region's underdeveloped economy, high unemployment rates and reliance on coal are the result of policies enacted by the federal government over several decades. If the coal plants decrease power production to meet emissions targets, Navajos will lose jobs, and its government will receive less revenue." (InsideClimate News graphic)

Some locals disagree, saying Navajo leaders are not considering the best interests of residents, Sadasivam writes. Colleen Cooley of the grassroots nonprofit Diné CARE, said "the Navajo lands have been mined for coal and uranium for decades, resulting in contamination of water sources and air pollution. She said it's time to shift to new, less damaging power sources such as wind and solar."

Environmental groups say "the Navajo plants are responsible for premature deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks and hundreds of millions of dollars of annual health costs," Sadasivam writes. "The plants, which are owned by public utilities and the federal government, export a majority of the power out of the reservation to serve homes and businesses as far away as Las Vegas and help deliver Arizona's share of the Colorado River water to Tucson and Phoenix. Meanwhile, a third of Navajo Nation residents remain without electricity in their homes." (Read more)

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