The Navajo Generating Station (NGS) was created in the '70s and is the largest coal-fired power plant in the western United States. While Its power also produces dangerous levels of pollution, it made a deal with the EPA that would let them continue their operations until 2044. That has recently changed, however, and the deadline has now been drastically cut down by more than 25 years.
The 2500-megawatt station is the main feature of western electric power that helped the rapid growth of cities such as of Phoenix and Tucscon. It sits on the summit of a high bluff close to the Colorado River. The union of water, fossil fuel and pumping technology drastically changed the desert.
The warnings of the 1970s turned out to be true — eleven national parks and protected wilderness areas surrounding NGS have felt the immediate effects of the pollution created by it. EPA records show of tribal complaints of double the cancer rates in the Navajo Nation. The NGS itself was responsible for twelve premature deaths in 2012.
5. They Need An Entire River To Run It, And It Dries Out The Area
Plants like the NGS are taking a lot of hits from growing competition, the most common one being natural gas. The cheap abundance of the resource due to fracking has made it spread throughout the country. Natural gas also produces half the carbon dioxide pollution than coal when used to generate electricity.
The communities of the Navajo Nation are readying themselves for the economic impact of the station's shutdown. When it happens, an estimated 2,400 jobs will be lost in the community. The lease the Navajo Nation loses from the SRP currently pays them $42 million annually.
Even if fracking were to stop or policies like the Clean Power Plan were thrown out by the Trump administration, coal is still unlikely to return to its former glory. In 2015 alone, coal production, consumption and employment fell by ten percent. China, a country that heavily relies on coal-generated electricity, is rapidly closing power plants to cut down on emissions.
The shutdown will affect the future generations of the Navajo Nation, but renewable energy might save them. A 2016 study showed that they have the greatest untapped renewable energy resource in the area.The Kayenta district plan to install ten solar units at customers' homes in 2017, and there is a project to build a utility-scale solar plant in the area.