cronkitenews.azpbs.org WASHINGTON – The investment firm that was interested in buying the Navajo Generating Station broke off its pursuit last week, making the closure of the plant next year and the loss of hundreds of jobs appear more likely. Avenue Capital subsidiary Middle River Project said in a letter to Navajo officials Thursday night that it has not been able to get commitments from customers to buy enough power for a “workable operating paradigm” for the plant. The announcement was welcomed by environmentalists. They said the planned December 2019 closure of the coal-fired plant gives the Navajo Nation the opportunity to shift power generation from fossil fuels to clean energy. But others say closing the plant and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it will mean the loss of hundreds of jobs, many held by members of the Hopi and Navajo tribes. “It would leave a lasting economic impact on individuals, families and communities that won’t be quickly made up, if at all,” said Phil Smith, director of governmental affairs for the United Mine Workers of America.
But Nadine Narindrankura said it’s past time to give up the fight to save the Navajo Generating Station. Narindrankura, with her 2-year-old daughter in tow, was one of 18 Navajo who demonstrated outside Avenue Capital’s Manhattan office last week to protest plans to keep the coal-fired plant open. She said the news that Middle River Group has backed out of a deal gives Navajo leadership the opportunity to begin a transition from fossil fuels to cleaner, more sustainable energy. “The opportunity has presented itself once more to prepare for a successful transition away from coal,” Narindrankura said in a statement late Thursday. “The future is in renewables, not in a dead coal market.”
The U.S. govt can protect 850 mine and power plant jobs, thousands of support jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tribal revenues by keeping NGS online. Swift & decisive action is needed! #YestoNGS https://t.co/Q1uFd5a6aa pic.twitter.com/CPkjyGpQNv— YestoNGS (@YestoNGS) September 21, 2018
Smith, of the mineworkers union, said “there is no such thing as just transitioning.” While clean energy would benefit the environment, it would not replace the jobs that the plant and mine currently provide. But Percy Deal, who lives on the Navajo reservation, said a renewable-energy project would create new jobs on the reservation, and that Navajo and Hopi lands are ideal for developing new solar energy options. “Local families have never taken our eyes off of what we have been praying for – for our livelihoods to be on a path to recovery after all this is said and done,” Deal said in a statement. This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a new multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal. It originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org