Members of the Trump administration are taking a bold action to stave off closure of the Navajo Generating Station, the latest White House maneuver to rescue the country’s coal industry.
The Interior Department sent a letter to Central Arizona Project board members on Friday, discouraging them from soliciting power from any source outside of the Navajo Generating Station. The letter touted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s congressional authority to keep NGS — the largest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi River — in operation.
“While the Department recognizes that many circumstances have changed since passage of the 1968 Act … it currently believes that the 1968 Act remains the applicable governing authority and must be addressed in any decision relating to future sources of Project power,” the letter, provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation, reads. “With the 1968 Act in mind, the Department expects to consider several options going forward, including the feasibility of continued use of NGS-provided power.”
NGS — created decades ago with the purpose of providing power to CAP — has become a way of life for the Native American communities residing in northeast Arizona. A vast majority of NGS employees are members of the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe.
The Central Arizona Project, a diversion canal located in western Arizona, is NGS’s biggest customer. NGS is due to close down at the end of 2019 unless new buyers are located. However, CAP board members have already started a search for a new source of energy. The Interior Department’s letter notably comes before a CAP board meeting on Thursday.
The Interior Department’s letter was sent just one day after a draft memo was leaked, revealing the White House’s plan to save uneconomical coal and nuclear plants. The federal government, according to the plan, will buy electricity from at-risk plants for two years using emergency authority granted under the Defense Production Act and Section 202 of the Federal Power Act. Both of the federal laws were created decades ago and meant for emergency situations, such as during war time or devastating weather.
However, there was no mention of this emergency plan in the Interior Department’s letter concerning NGS.
NGS supporters plan to rally at the Arizona capitol on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. The rally, organized in large part by Yes to NGS, is expected to bring out more than 300 miners and their family members. Supporters are asking CAP board members to wait 90 days before signing any new purchase agreement, giving time for an NGS sale to come to fruition.
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