PHOENIX — About 300 Native American coal miners, power plant workers and families rallied outside the state Capitol Wednesday morning to ask for 90 more days to figure out how to keep the Navajo Generating Station near Page operating.
Community leaders said they needed the time to “slow this process down, answer important questions and give the prospective owners some time to deliver,” according to a news release.
SRP, Arizona Public Service and two other utilities that own the coal-fired plant agreed to begin shutting it down in 2019. The plant, which was built in the mid-1970s on the Navajo Reservation, has been under financial pressure because of low natural-gas prices, according to a previous Cronkite News article.
Leaders of the Yes to NGS movement want more time to work with Illinois-based Middle River Power as a potential buyer of the plant. If they don’t get that time, leaders said, thousands of people — mostly Native Americans — would lose their jobs.
Clark Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said closing the plant will affect the community’s day-by-day life.
“Many lives are at stake,” he said. “Money is money, but yet life is more precious than money.”
Justin Tsosie, an international representative for the United Mine Workers, said he and other members in the community do not want to have to find work somewhere else.
“The Navajo Nation is our home,” Tsosie said. “We don’t want to make that decision to leave our home.”
Marie Justice, the local union president for the United Mine Workers of America, said the plant is a lifeline for the community.
“I had the opportunity to be home and be a parent,” Justice said. “We want to give (coal miners’ families) the same opportunity to be able to raise their children and to enjoy being home every day.”
On Thursday, miners and plant supporters will meet with the Central Arizona Project board to discuss the 90-day pause request.
The plant’s primary customer is the Central Arizona Project, which pumps water from the Colorado River to the Phoenix and Tucson areas. But the agency announced last year it would stop doing business with the plant, according to a Cronkite News article.
Yes to NGS wants the CAP to keep the plant to open — and hold off on purchasing power from other sources — until sale of the plant can be negotiated.