Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Thu, July 09

Viewpoint: Desert Rock 'hijacked' into national environmental politics

Contrary to the assertion that Navajos are on the wrong path in energy development, Diné Power Authority is working to help pull the Navajo people out of poverty with the development of the Desert Rock Power Plant and the Navajo Transmission Project. And contrary to the cynics, renewable energy resources are part of a balanced equation in the Navajo Energy portfolio.

The Navajo Nation and surrounding states have lifelines into fossil fuel. We agree with the Department of Energy and the Senate that coal is a major future source of electricity generation. Diné Power Authority is committed to working with the government to develop, demonstrate and deploy the next generation of advanced technologies to make it possible to reduce regulated emissions even further to near-zero levels.

With overwhelming support, the Navajo Nation Council granted the Desert Rock project all of the permits it needs. President Shirley has been very vocal in his promotion of Desert Rock. The leaders want to rev up our ailing economy. Unemployment is affecting everyone, regardless of political party or ideology. Navajos are trying to better their situation by using our natural resources and being a major player in the energy market. Desert Rock will make a valuable contribution to economic development in Navajo country.

Desert Rock has to deal with the fact that it is the political will of the American people that put the country on a path toward reducing greenhouse gas pollution and global warming. But environmentalists carefully cultivated climate change hysteria. The media reinforced it, and as result Desert Rock has been hijacked into the crux of national politics.

There is no strong evidence that the earth is getting warmer. Early snow, no major hurricanes and record cold summer temperatures mess with the scenario of impending environmental catastrophe.

But carbon dioxide is clearly an important issue the U.S. has to solve. By harnessing the scientific talent and resources of government as well as industry, broadly deployable pollution capture methods can be achieved. Desert Rock is in on the scientific breakthrough of capturing power plant emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that Desert Rock would be outfitted with the best technology to control emissions in its issuance of the Desert Rock air permit. Desert Rock will employ two 750 MW Ultra Supercritical boiler units, a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system, fluidized gas desulfurization (FGD) units, wet scrubbers and wet stakes for mercury control, reduce water use by 85 percent and advanced cooling technologies.

With respect to political realities, the Navajo Nation and its partner, Sithe Global is seeking a Department of Energy (DOE) grant to add Carbon Capture and Sequestration to further bolster emission control technology of Desert Rock and applied for a $450 million grant. When the carbon is captured, it will be transported through a pipeline to Texas gas fields, or stored underground. Both EPA and the Interior Department are considering the feasibility of geologic carbon dioxide sequestration on federal lands.

Diné Power Authority is also considering the production of algae as a weapon in the climate change war. The exhaust from power plants could be captured and fed to algae and prevent the carbon dioxide (CO2) from contributing to further climate change. Algae can utilize CO2 and the effort is to convert algae ponds into fuel. Algae are also seen as a good source for animal feeds, chemicals and fertilizer.

Controversial climate legislation is high on the Congressional agenda, but many legislators balked at the bill. There are concerns that without Republican support, it is unlikely that Democrats will be able to reach the 60-vote threshold they need to advance the bill. Democrats are catering to Republicans with a proposed inclusion of expanding off shore drilling access and providing new subsidies for the nuclear power industry. Environmentalists are now worried that Democrats are too willing to compromise.

Some believe that President Obama will direct executive offices to go ahead with new regulation controlling carbon pollution even if Congress fails to produce a climate bill. The Supreme Court had ruled that the federal agency had the authority to regulate carbon emissions through the Clean Air Act.

EPA started the process to regulate carbon dioxide. But the EPA is required to find that carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health. EPA issued an "endangerment finding," which seems to be lacking a sound record demonstrating negative human health impacts. EPA moved closer to regulating greenhouse gas emissions with a proposal to establish the threshold for requiring controls on new stationary sources, like Desert Rock.

We agree with President Obama that Desert Rock is at the crossroad of energy and climate policy. We also reject the notion that you have to choose environment over economic development. That is a false choice. Energy development is really apolitical. Navajo energy is for the benefit of the Navajo people. Desert Rock is a Navajo Nation project. And electricity really makes our life better.

Diné Power Authority is informing the public that the work on the Desert Rock Energy Project will continue.

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