The Navajo Generating Station went online in 1974 and has been an essential element of the Navajo economy ever since. NGS provides power that drives the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, which supplies water to much of the state. But CAP, the largest consumer of power from NGS, announced last year that it would no longer do business with the plant because it could have saved $38.5 million in 2016 by buying electricity from the market rather than NGS.
As a result, in February 2017, plant co-owners Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., NV Energy, Tucson Electric Power and the Bureau of Reclamation said they would only keep the plant open until the end of 2019. A year later, the Republican-controlled U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing chaired by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott. Gosar’s proposal is for Arizona to keep coal as part of its energy mix. We guess he didn’t hear what CAP, the plant owners, and the free market are telling us: The coal plant is not economically viable anymore. (Gosar’s comments also clearly showed that he doesn’t understand the science of alternative energy which allows wind and solar to deliver electricity through battery storage even “when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing, when it’s dark at night.” His uninformed comments prove again that Republicans are ignorant of science and economics.
Democrats at the hearing had better ideas:
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said that the government needs to consider a transition to renewable energy. “Whether it is a conversion, transition to other energies, whether it is the issue with employment, I think that we can do a Band-Aid, talk about mandating that the CAP buy its share,” he said. “I don’t think that is going to, in the long term, deal with the decline in revenue.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, said the government should invest in coal jobs, and do what it can to keep the plant open. But the job doesn’t end there, he said. “Our treaty and trust obligations mean we must work to assist in building the infrastructure that is critical for the development of a diverse economy, that can unleash the potential of Indian Country,” O’Halleran said.
The problem is that as long as Republicans control the U.S. House of Representative, these good ideas are going nowhere. Instead, we can expect continued examples like this — a year of no action following a critical threat to a Native American economy and then a hearing led by a Republican who doesn’t believe in science and ignores economic facts.
Source: Cronkite News, Arizona PBS