By Rep. Paul Gosar
Salt River Project, operator of Navajo Generating Station, recently announced it would shut down 33 percent of the plant with an agreement that will likely shut the entire plant by 2044. In other words, by the time my 20-year-old son turns 50, NGS will be history.
Also history: the nearly 1,000 jobs that run the electrical and mining operations. Of the 920 jobs, 33 percent will be terminated soon. A federal 2012 government study showed that the electric plant resulted in nearly $1.3 billion in coal-royalty payments to the Navajo and Hopi economies since 1987.
The jobs that will be lost are good jobs. The average annual wages and benefits at the Kayenta Coal Mine is $117,000 per year, and more than 90 percent of the miners are Native American. More than 80 percent of all NGS jobs employ members of the Navajo Nation.
Though Native Americans will suffer the brunt of this disastrous policy, all Arizonans will pay. If you use water or electricity in Arizona, you will soon be paying more for both. The closure of the plant and the reduction in productivity will result in a reduction in our energy supply and higher costs.
How did we get here? I don't blame SRP. It played the best hand it was dealt. As The Arizona Republic noted, SRP was given a Hobson's choice by the federal government: Spend over a billion now to keep the plant operating for a few more years (with no guarantee of a year or even five years more) or start shutting the plant slowly and keep it going as long as feasible. SRP chose the latter.
The dismantling of the electric plant is due to the Obama Environmental Protection Agency's unnatural fixation with destroying the coal industry. President Barack Obama stated publicly that he will see to it that coal plants are taxed or regulated out of existence. The president is now using the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to attack carbon fuels.
I will give the president credit: He kept his word to kill coal. The EPA claimed that NGS emissions needed further technology improvements (at a cost of $1 billion), even though Obama's National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that there is no evidence that installing the new technology would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon or nearby wilderness areas.
The EPA wanted $1 billion for "improvements" that actually would not change anything -- except raise your utility rates by more than 66 percent. Now, you see why SRP cut a deal.
Congress rejected previous cap-and-tax energy plans proposed by the president and his big-government allies. Knowing he can't lawfully enact a carbon-dioxide tax plan, Obama is unlawfully directing his EPA to impose strict limits on carbon emissions from existing coal and gas-fired facilities. What is happening at NGS is happening to our eastern Arizona coal plants and many other important facilities across the country. At stake are hundreds of jobs families rely on to put food on the table. At stake are energy prices that will surely skyrocket should we limit our energy supply.
I remain committed to being a voice in Washington for the people most impacted by the president's war on affordable energy and war on jobs. I am holding a congressional hearing in Mesa on Aug. 22. Joining me will be Reps. Matt Salmon, Trent Franks and David Schweikert. Please join us and let us know how you feel about the EPA and its unlawful actions.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee.