The largest tribe in America is the Navajo. The Navajo Nation has over 300,000 members and has the biggest reservation in the country. For decades one of their economic lifelines has been coal power and mining. Decades of coal have sullied their waters and air. But today there is a movement to move away from coal and embrace solar and wind energies. Coal has been declining in the Navajo Nation, particularly the mining aspect, and changes in clean air regulations are forcing the Navajo to consider changes to coal power plants as well. Both the US EPA and the state of Arizona are seeking to have older coal power plants based on Navajo lands add more expensive pollution controls. Besides asking for greater spends on pollution controls, the realty is that states like California which depend on these coal power plants, are increasingly imposing greenhouse gas emissions standards and requiring renewable energy purchases, banning or restricting the use of coal for electricity. The Navajo in response to these changes are investing now in alternative energy solutions. This year the Nation approved a wind farm to be built outside of Flagstaff, AZ to power up to 20,000 homes. The Nation is also bringing solar and wind power to 18,000 homes on the reservation that have no electricity. Unemployment runs up to 60 percent on the reservation. The coal fired plants and mining operations were key employers for members of the Nation. With coal’s decline in this region, the Nation is hard pressed to create new energy jobs. Their move to solar and wind energies are the right steps to take.
Photo: Monument Valley Navajo Nation Park Photo Credit: John Vlahakis