That according to Oct. 7, 2014 press releases from Black Mesa Water Coalition of Flagstaff, Ariz., To’Nizhoni Ani (Beautiful Water Speaking) of Kykotsmovi, Ariz., Dine’ Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, the Environmental Law Center of Denver, Colo., the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Earthjustice.
The organizations are asking that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, Calif., set aside the US EPA’s “decision to delay clean up of harmful air emissions and require retrofitting of the best available clean air technology” for NGS, “one of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired plants,” which is located on the Navajo Reservation near Paige, Ariz.
On July 28, 2014, the EPA announced that it had selected a cleanup plan for NGS that included a recommendation from a Technical Working Group that bypassed federal environmental mandates for NGS to reduce nitrogen oxide and haze by 85 percent during the next five years.
“The Federal government is using a double standard,” University of Denver Assistant Professor of Law Brad Bartlet, who is also an attorney for the organizations, stated. “The EPA has been requiring retrofitting technology at privately owned power plants all over the United States. But in the case of NGS, where the U.S. government has a 27 percent ownership, the government exempts itself from the law. This is fundamentally unjust.”
“EPA’s decision is an outrage,” TNA co-founder Nicole Horseherder of Black Mesa, Ariz., stated. “The decision is one-sided towards those whose profits are at stake, and does not take into consideration the health and livelihood of those who are not on the NGS payroll.
“Our people still make a living off the land,” Horseherder explained. “EPA’s decision prolonging the clean up mandated for other coal fired power plants is discrimination and genocide for our people and way of life. For 40 years we have been breathing harmful air pollution from one of the ten biggest polluters in the U.S. The EPA has given the power plant a pass and allowed NGS to continue contaminating our air, soil, and water for another 30 years.”
“Damage to air quality also means damage to the water and vegetation in the region since the particles emitted eventually end up settling down on the ground,” TNA co-founder Marshall Johnson of Black Mesa added. “The agency does not take into account the fact that Diné and Hopi still farm and depend on native crops such as corn, beans, squash and melons for their daily diet as well as ceremonies.
“Local plants are used for dyes for shoes, and ceremonial objects as well as coloring wool that will go into traditional clothing and blankets,” Johnson explained. “The people eat the sheep and cattle that eat the vegetation native to the region.”
“The pollution from Navajo Generating Station is breathed in by millions across the Southwest,” Natural Resources Defense Council Western Energy Project Legal Director Noah Long stated. “This pollution can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health consequences, on top of its significant environmental and haze impact. EPA shouldn’t be in the business of figuring out how the Clean Air Act can avoid cleaning the air, particularly at a federally owned facility.”
BMWC Director Jihan Gearon pointed out that the EPA’s decision jeopardizes the abilities of grassroots communities “to transition to a clean energy economy. Delaying coal cleanup for another 30 years inhibits progress on renewable energy development that will become an economic engine long past coal.”
Gearon added, “Wind and solar projects on Navajo Nation lands can generate the same power as one unit at the Navajo Generating Station coal plant and can provide about 1,000 direct and indirect Navajo jobs. The fedderal government needs to stop pushing dirty coal to power the Central Arizona Project and start using clean renewable energy.”
“Not only is the lawsuit a chance to reduce harmful emissions from a coal-fired power plant, but it provides an opportunity to promote and develop much-needed renewable energy projects,” Grand Canyon Trust’s Native America Program Director Tony Skrelunas stated. “We need to immediately begin pursuing a strategy for transitioning to renewable energy that will directly benefit the local communities and the tribes.”
The TWG consists of representatives from the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Western Resource Advocates, and Salt River Project, which also represented the other NGS owners. The other owners are the US Bureau of Reclamation, Arizona Public Service Company, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Tucson Electric Power Company, and NV Energy of Nevada.
“The TWG recommendations were the best possible of all the proposed alternatives that were ‘better than BART’,” Navajo Nation EPA Director Stephen B. Etsitty stated in a US EPA press release on July 28, 2014. “This alternative not only saves crucial jobs and keeps vital revenue on the Navajo Nation, but opens the door to new low-emitting energy development pursuant to the agreement.”
“By cutting pollution from NGS, millions of visitors will see the magnificent vistas of the Grand Canyon with greater clarity,” EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Jared Blumenfeld stated On July 28, 2014. “This flexible and practical solution will also generate critical tribal revenues, improve public health, provide long term certainty to power and water utilities and set the stage for a transition to a clean energy future.”
EPA reported that it held five public hearings, had 50 consultations with tribes and considered 77,000 public comments. EPA’s final action on NGS follows two proposals released in 2013 to cut NOx or nitrogen oxide emissions at the plant.
In addition to impairing visibility, NOx reacts with other airborne chemicals to form ozone and small particulates — both harmful to human health. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Children, the elderly, people with lung ailments such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are at risk for adverse effects from ozone and particulate matter.
According to the EPA’s July 28, 2014, press release, a portion of the power generated by NGS pumps Colorado River water to tribes, agricultural users and municipalities; the remaining power is sold to support tribal water settlement agreements.
The EPA noted that in recent years, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and NV Energy, which collectively own almost one third of the facility, announced their intentions to divest from NGS.
The federal environmental agency added, “Recognizing the importance of NGS to Arizona tribes, the EPA plan gives the remaining owners a flexible timeline to address ownership changes while meeting the emissions reductions required by the Clean Air Act.”
Under the Clean Air Act, Congress set a long-term, mandatory goal of restoring natural visibility conditions in numerous national parks and wilderness areas throughout the United States, known as Class I Areas.
The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule requires the use of Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) at older coal-fired power plants to reduce haze and improve visibility.
PRESS RELEASE, 10-7-14, Black Mesa Water Coalition of Flagstaff, Ariz., To’Nizhoni Ani (Beautiful Water Speaking) of Kykotsmovi, Ariz., Dine’ Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7xhIWpNuJXieFhZTmM2WHBHUGM/view?usp=sharing, 10-7-14, Environmental Law Center of Denver, Colo., the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Earthjustice
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7xhIWpNuJXiWEFvcGRENXdkZzA/view?usp=sharing, 7-28-14, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7xhIWpNuJXiV0R1MURWd3Rndms/view?usp=sharing, 7-28-14, Salt River Project