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The 2,400-MW Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in northeastern Arizona — the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi River — is shutting down this week.

The affiliated Kayenta coal mine will also shut down.

Salt River Project (SRP), NGS’s Tempe-headquartered operator, says the coal plant’s shutdown date will be determined by the remaining coal supply. According to Cronkite News:

Of the 433 workers who were at the plant before the closure was announced, SRP said about 280 accepted offers to relocate to jobs in different facilities, while others either refused or opted to retire.

There will be 50 employees left, most of whom are working on contract. The Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe are mainly affected by the closure. Navajo community groups have called for a transition to green energy and more stringent water protections.

Democratic Representative Tom O’Halleran of Sedona, whose district includes the Navajo Generating Station and the mine, introduced a bill in September to provide economic development and job training to people who lost their jobs as a result of the closures.

Carol Davis, a director with Navajo environmental group Diné C.A.R.E., said:

The closing of NGS represents an opportunity to right the longstanding wrongs on water that our people have suffered as a result of coal operations.

And Nicole Horseherder of the group Tó Nizhóní Ání, said:

As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, we stand to benefit from the development of clean-energy projects and from an economic transition that prioritizes local community voices.

Tó Nizhóní Ání translates to “sacred water speaks,” and the nonprofit group’s “mission is to preserve and protect the environment, land, water, sky and people and advocate for the wise and responsible use of the natural resources of the Black Mesa region (Dził Yijiin).”

Further, Marie Gladue from the Flagstaff-based Black Mesa Water Coalition, who “is dedicated to preserving and protecting Mother Earth and the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ cultures,” said:

We need to heal from the wrongs of the past [and called for energy and water policies] in line with our values and virtues as stewards of the natural world.

The Navajo Nation brought the second phase of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s Kayenta Solar facility online in September, reported Tucson.com. It connected 233 homes in the spring, and a second phase is planned for 2020.

Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic via azcentral.com

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