April 12 (UPI) -- An advocacy group for the largest coal-fired power plant in the West -- which may be shuttered next year -- joined labor and industry leaders Thursday in asking Congress to keep the facility open.
At an oversight hearing Thursday in the House Committee on Natural Resources, the Yes to NGS coalition pled with Congress and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to keep the the Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., running.
"The Navajo Nation is blessed with a wealth of natural fossil fuels and renewable energy resources - resources we have the right develop and which we have the capability to manage," said Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates in prepared remarks. "NGS is an essential component of the Navajo Nation's economy and our energy portfolio and must remain viable for the sake of the Nation and our People."
Even with support from the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, the plant could close next year.
Environmental groups have pushed to close the plant, saying it's the most heavily polluting coal producer in the western United States.
The plant employs hundreds of workers but is struggling to stay open, as utilities that use its power switch to cheaper, greener energy sources.
The Navajo Generating Station is key to the financial well-being of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Also facing closure is the Kayenta coal mine, which supplies the power plant. The two entities provide 725 jobs.
The NGS, which was sanctioned by Congress to provide power for the Central Arizona Project, was commissioned in 1974 to run for 70 years, through 2044.
"Working at the mine and power plant offer the Dine' a way to remain on lands that our families have used for generations," said Marie Justice, United Mine Workers of America president of Local 1924. "If these operations shut down a quarter century before Congress intended, the impact will be devastating. The deeper issue is about traditional working families and the work we do to benefit tribal people and families across Arizona."