The Navajo, circled by coal, see jobs vanish as CO2 falls

By Benjamin Storrow | E&E News | January 2, 2020

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — For almost a half-century, the giant coal plant here was the economic heartbeat of the Navajo Nation. Today, it looms silently over the desert with three smokestacks towering 775 feet in the air. Its 500-person workforce scattered in November after its great boilers were extinguished for the last time.

The plant, named the Navajo Generating Station, is the latest coal behemoth to fall victim to the rising tide of cheap gas and renewable energy. Its closure opened an economic chasm here as deep as the nearby Grand Canyon, unearthing painful questions about whether the Navajo people ever fully benefited from the valuable minerals under their ground, while underscoring the difficulty of replacing an industry that offered a ladder to the middle class.

The Navajo are divided about the tribe’s future. Some question whether the nation is better off more than a half-century after coal was dug up on this sprawling reservation, which rambles for hundreds of miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Even today, some 15,000 Navajo are without electricity. Many say it’s time to build a new future around the wind and sun.

Read full story at Full story at E&E News »