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Environmentalists seek to overturn plan at Navajo coal plant

Navajo Power Generating Station lake Powell

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) ai??i?? A federal advisory group met in secret to craft a pollution control plan for a coal-fired power plant in the Navajo Nation, denying the public an opportunity to participate in the talks, environmentalists on the reservation allege in a lawsuit.

The complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in California seeks to overturn the final rule for haze-causing nitrogen oxide emissions at the Navajo Generating Station. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had proposed an 84 percent reduction in the emissions. But the agency ultimately adopted an alternative submitted by the advisory group that gives the power plant owners more time to implement pollution controls.

Nicole Horseherder said the plan ignores concerns of Navajos who live closest to the power plant near the Arizona-Utah border and the effect that delays in the cleaning up the plant will have on people whose livelihoods rely on the land.

“We’re trying to make people see things from a human point of view, and humans are dependent on the land and the air and the drinking water,” she said.

The EPA opened up a public comment period on alternatives to its original proposal, but the complaint says the EPA provided assurances that the Technical Working Group proposal would be approved. Horseherder said that would mean her comments and others weren’t taken into serious consideration.

The EPA said Tuesday that it is reviewing the complaint. The Interior Department, also named as a defendant, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The agency heralded the agreement reached by the Technical Working Group in July 2014, saying it represented a diverse group of partners and would improve air quality while minimizing the chances for the power plant to close abruptly.

The plaintiffs ai??i?? To’ Nizhoni Ani, Black Mesa Water Coalition and Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment ai??i?? said they were not invited to participate in the advisory group and want to shed light on how it was formed. The Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Gila River Indian Community, the Navajo Nation, Salt River Project, the Interior Department and Western Resource Advocates were members.

The complaint also alleges that the EPA lied about the extent of the agency’s involvement in the advisory group.

The plaintiffs in Monday’s complaint also petitioned the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2014 to review the EPA’s final rule, saying it doesn’t meet requirements of the Clean Air Act.

The Navajo Generating Station serves customers throughout the West. 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