Navajo President Ben Shelly Disappointed by U.S. EPA’s Proposed Rulemaking for Navajo Generating Station
By: Jared King
WASHINGTON–Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said the recently released proposed rule for Navajo Generating Station (NGS) to install high cost emissions reduction technology was a disappointment for the Navajo Nation.
“Selective Catalytic Reduction controls as Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) for NGS, as proposed by the EPA, is not what I advocated for in our communications with the EPA,” said President Shelly, in response to the proposed Federal Implementation Plan for the Navajo Generating Station.
EPA Region 9, proposes a plant-wide emission limit for NOx of 0.055 lb/MMBtu by 2018, which will reduce NOx emissions by 84%.
“We believe that Low NOx Burners and Separated Overfire Air is BART for NGS, and that more stringent controls should be phased over a longer period of time that allows for assured the economic viability of Navajo Generating Station. This technology would ensure that jobs at the plant and Kayenta Mine would remain economically viable for years to come,” President Shelly added.
The EPA proposal includes alternatives to BART that may allow NGS more time, beyond 2018, to install the SCR emissions controls if sufficient reductions in NOx can be reached. The goal of the Regional Haze Rule is to restore visibility to pristine conditions by 2064.
“I still think that the federal government has placed too much of an emphasis on visibility in contrast to the costs of compliance and the potential economic ripple effects. I sincerely hope that any ripple effects of this proposal will not result in immediate drastic impacts to our Navajo workers employed at NGS and the mine.
Unfortunately, some federal rulemakings result in economic impacts that are hard to recover from. I hope this will not be the case here,” President Shelly said.
The economic consequences that could result from a more stringent BART ruling will need to be addressed at all levels, said President Shelly, including through his role as Navajo Nation President, and including all levels within the EPA.
“There is still much work to be done to maintain compliance with the Clean Air Act and the Regional Haze Rule, while supporting the continued dedicated efforts of industry, the Navajo Nation, and EPA to balance visibility goals with economic prosperity. Mitigation of job losses and impacts to the regional economy are still my concern,” President Shelly added.
The significance of NGS to the Navajo Nation should continue to be underscored said President Shelly. The Navajo Nation depends heavily on revenue derived through operations of the NGS. NGS is among the largest employers within the Nation.
NGS employs around 528 people, 74% of whom are members of the Nation, and approximately 300 seasonal employees hired by the plant, with 93% of those being Navajo. The plants annual payroll is more than $50 million. NGS is linked inextricably with the coal mine that supplies it and the economic benefits indirectly attributable to NGS includes mine employment, payroll and royalty revenue for the Nation.
NGS burns approximately 9 million tons of coal annually from the Peabody Kayenta mine. Revenues to the Nation in the form of royalties and taxes paid by the Kayenta Mine are approximately $45 million. The Kayenta Mine is also a major employer on the Navajo Nation, with 400 employees, 90% of whom are Navajo tribal members. Salary and benefits paid by the Kayenta Mine exceeded $51 million.
President Shelly also acknowledged the importance of NGS to other Arizona Tribes. Several Navajo Nation programs within the Executive Branch have already begun working in collaboration with national scientific laboratories to analyze options for renewable energy while recognizing the Navajo Nation’s desire to continue using coal in the energy mix on the Navajo Nation. “We will continue to exchange information and ideas for producing affordable and efficient energy, particularly for the Navajo Nation, where choices are presently limited and where we are challenged because we lack a robust economy.”
Importantly, President Shelly sees the on-going necessity to invoke government-to-government consultation in furtherance of the trust responsibility as part of the relationship that has been established with EPA to ensure federal responsiveness to Navajo Nation concerns in the proposed BART rule for NGS; particularly for the purpose of involving tribal governments and considering tribal interests when EPA’s actions may affect Indian country.
Before the announcement of the proposed rule, President Shelly had established a working relationship with a number of Arizona tribes that shared similar interests and concerns related to economic impacts, compliance costs and visibility benefits, and if necessary, future meetings with other tribal leaders may ensue to discuss tribal issues integrally related to the proposed rule and its subsequent impacts on Arizona tribes.
President Shelly said that he expects to take a closer look at the extensive justification included in the proposed rule and provide comments within the 90-day comment period.
“We are going to do everything we can to ensure that jobs are protected at Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine. Our people depend on the jobs provided by the power plant and the mine, we must make sure they will still be able to put food on the table for their family in the years to come,” President Shelly said.