Navajo Nation One Step Closer to New Coal Plant

Flagstaff, AZ – Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an air permit for the proposed Desert Rock Power Plant in northwest New Mexico on the Navajo Nation. From KNAU's Indian Country News Bureau, Daniel Kraker reports.

The federal air permit brings the Navajo Nation one step closer to construction of the 15 hundred megawatt coal fired plant. Steve Begay, general manager of the Dine Power Authority, says Desert Rock would generate 50 million dollars annually for the Navajo Nation, AND would emit nearly 20 percent less carbon dioxide than older coal fired plants.

We think it will be the cleanest plant in the country and also set new standards for future coal plants.

Still, the plant would pump out nearly 13 million tons of Co2 a year, in a region already home to two giant coal plants built in the 1970s. Mike Eisenfeld directs the New Mexico branch of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, an environmental group opposing Desert Rock.

The battle lines are being drawn, we firmly believe that a third coal fired power plant in the 4 corners region will absolutely devastate the area from the visibility, public health, and regional haze perspective.

Eisenfeld says opponents of the plant have 30 days to appeal the EPA's decision. The final key item the project needs to move forward is its Environmental Impact statement. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to release a draft later this year. If the plant wins all its environmental approvals, and isn't delayed in court, backers say it could come on line as early as 2012.

For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Daniel Kraker in Flagstaff.