More than 100 policymakers, business leaders and coal miners gathered in support of keeping the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) operating decades into the future at a rally held in conjunction with a U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) listening session Monday.
Representative Mark Finchem (AZ-11), Senator Judy Burges (AZ-22), former U.S. Congressman John Shadegg and Navajo Nation Policy Advisor Anthony Peterman were among those who said the plant needed to remain open to continue providing economic stability to the Navajo and Hopi communities, maintain a secure energy supply, and provide the affordable power that allows water to be pumped throughout Arizona via the Central Arizona Project.
“The Central Arizona Project relies on the Navajo Generating Station for 80 percent of its power,” Rep. Finchem said. “Premature plant closure would create economic hardship for the Navajo and Hopi. It also puts at risk the state’s energy diversity and does not address the full cost impacts to CAP and its customers.”
Local elected officials and trade groups, such as the Arizona Mining Association, have expressed major issues with premature plant closure, citing concerns about the state’s energy diversity, job loss and economic hardship faced by the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.
Speakers also refuted claims that switching to natural gas would be more cost effective than operating the plant, pointing to a recent study by Navigant Research, which found that continued operation of the plant would be less expensive than replacing it, with a projected cost of nearly $400 million less than other alternatives through 2040.
“Arizona is at risk of becoming overly reliant on natural gas, when virtually all our natural gas has to be imported,” said Arizona Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin. “Keeping the plant operating will protect ratepayers from volatile natural gas price swings, protect against supply disruptions and would be far more cost-effective than prematurely retiring the plant.”
NGS is a three-unit, 2,250-megawatt plant located on tribal land leased from the Navajo Nation near Page. Together, the plant and the mine provide 22 percent of the Navajo Nation’s annual general budget and 85 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s general fund budget. The operations support some 3,000 jobs in the region.
Industry leaders and the Arizona mining community are encouraging stakeholders to work with the DOI and other interested parties to help keep the plant operating.
Following the rally, dozens of miners attended the first of four listening sessions before representatives of the DOI’s Bureau of Reclamation to make their case. The next listening session will be on Wednesday, May 17 in Page, where NGS is located.