Sustainable energy: Wind balkers in Navajo country

Posted: Oct 17, 2017

All eyes were on the Navajo Nation this week when the New York Times ran the story, “Navajos Hope to Shift From Coal to Wind and Sun.” The article talked about a grass-roots movement on the 17-million-acre reservation focused on reducing reliance on coal revenue. It mentioned how the opposing candidates for president of the Navajo Nation (Lynda Lovejoy and current vice president, Ben Shelly), both supported alternative energy in their campaigns.

But, really, both presidential candidates have been clear that—in a land where unemployment tops 50 percent—they will not shut down coal plants. Given the heavy dependence the 300,000-member Navajo Nation has had on coal cash over the past 50 years, how realistic is it that such a change will happen?

Diné CARE, an all-Navajo environmental organization, has been fighting for over 20 years to restore the tribe’s historically harmonious relationship with nature. The health of their people and the land has suffered too much, they say. At the same time, their own tribal council is still actively considering the construction of a brand new 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant.

Plus, despite the recent establishment of a Navajo Green Economy Commission, current president Joe Shirley said in his State of the Nation address on October 18, “As much as we support and encourage the development of wind and solar projects, the most reliable source of electric energy will continue to come from coal, and coal is what the Navajo Nation has in abundance.”

The wind and sun may have to wait.

-Heather Hansen

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