The Arizona Republican Party recently issued a press release stating that I want to “eliminate 1,000 coal jobs” on Navajo land. That statement is so far removed from reality that it warrants a direct response.
The issue that raised their ire was my asking whether spending $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion of ratepayer money to purchase the departing ownership shares of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and NV Energy, and update the air quality systems at the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) is a wise investment. Given that our neighboring states and utilities around the country are abandoning coal and investing heavily in natural gas and renewable energy generation, is sinking good money into a 40-year-old plant our only choice?
When studies show that for every $1 spent, clean energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels, what’s wrong with looking into alternative investments? Clean energy can increase the number of available jobs and address environmental and health issues people are concerned about. We know that coal fuel and compliance costs are going to continue to increase as time goes on, so why invest in technologies that only increase the cost of electricity? Why restrict the Navajo economy when diversifying the energy mix at NGS by adding wind, solar PV or solar CSP could create 3,000 new jobs?
What I want, along with many others, is to diversify and transform the Navajo economy by expanding the mix of energy and create even more jobs that could be filled by Navajo and Hopi people. I want them to earn higher wages, enjoy better working conditions, lead healthier lives and have better career options for generations to come.
Leave it to the Arizona Republican leadership to want to continue to limit the economic, employment and investment opportunities in Native American lands by willfully ignoring new opportunities and energy trends.
One thing that has been sorely missing from Arizona in recent years is an open and honest dialogue about our energy future. The free market in the U.S. is moving away from coal and toward other forms of generation, including renewables and natural gas. A diversified energy portfolio that employs renewable energy at NGS will employ more people at higher wages than work there now. We should explore and discuss this opportunity rather than dismissing it out-of-hand for purely political purposes.
Think about it: Arizona has far more to gain from increasing clean energy than it has to lose from reducing coal-fired power. As the sunniest state in the U.S., let’s lead the way — and have an open discussion.
— Nancy LaPlaca is exploring a 2014 candidacy for the Arizona Corporation Commission.