Off-grid solar better than coal

WINDOW ROCK, Nov. 7, 2013

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I'm writing to get readers thinking about the tribal government's purchase of the BHP mine at a time when the Obama administration is placing caps on power plants powered by coal. This would shut down the Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

The White House shared this thought titled "The Threat of Carbon Pollution: New Mexico." It states: "In 2012 alone, the cost of weather disasters exceeded $110 billion in the United States, and climate change will only increase the frequency and intensity of these events."

Navajo President Ben Shelly each June for the past two years declared drought conditions on Navajo. This is what the Obama administration is stating. It states: "Carbon pollution is contributing to a higher risk of asthma attacks and more frequent and severe storms, floods, heat waves, and wildfires, driving up food prices and threatening our communities."

Perhaps the Navajo Nation Council should reconsider raising a tax on junk food because that will be the only food available to those living below the poverty level.

The presidential document also states: "During the president's first term, the United States more than doubled its use of renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal sources. In New Mexico, renewable energy generation from these sources increased nearly 60 percent. Since 2009, the administration has supported tens of thousands of renewable energy projects throughout the country, including nearly 120 in New Mexico, generating enough energy to power nearly 42,000 homes and helping New Mexico meet its own goal of generating 20 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020."

I'm proposing to our Navajo leaders to consider purchasing 1,200-kW off-grid solar systems for 1,000 Former Bennett Freeze Area residents who would welcome electricity into their home; an alternative to NTUA's leasing program. Off-grid solar energy would cost much less than stringing electrical lines that NTUA charges $17 to $27 per foot. Rights-of-way, including archeological clearances would not be needed for off-grid systems.

Another 1,000 off-grid systems could be offered to chapter residents living outside the 18 chapters that make up the FBFA. Of course, since the Navajo Nation would maintain ownership of these units, residents would be required to learn how to use them in the best way. I would be happy to educate them on this.

Wouldn't it make sense for the Navajo Nation to get their feet wet with a small two megawatts of installed power first before dumping six times more money into a coal mine that will be shut down very soon or perhaps ramped down in electrical production?
I know many investors who would be willing to invest in this if only our Navajo leaders would understand.

Patrick Murphy
Albuquerque, N.M.

EPA rule threatens Arizona's way of life

Arizona's story of growth and prosperity came through access to a supply of low-cost energy and water that is now at risk. Before World War II, Arizona was a desert outpost -- a stopover on the way to California. As the post-war economy blossomed, Arizona remained the rugged west. But a few visionaries who happened to call Arizona home knew this state could be so much more. But to make that vision a reality, they needed one thing: Water.

Statesmen like Sens. Carl Hayden and Barry Goldwater, alongside many other state and federal leaders, knew Arizona's arid climate could draw East Coast and Midwest residents in droves if only there was a way to support their lifestyles. They knew that access to affordable energy and water would drive Arizona's economic prosperity. So, they embarked on a decades-long effort to build the Central Arizona Project, a system of canals that could deliver Colorado River water to far-flung parts of the state as well as the population hub of Phoenix.

They just needed a way to move the water. And so became the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz. The coal-fueled power plant was built to supply electricity to pump the water in the CAP canal system hundreds of miles from northwestern Arizona to the rest of the state.

Today, the Navajo Generating Station, fueled by the Kayenta Mine, is the lowest-cost provider of energy in the region and is the heartbeat of Arizona's economy. The developing, high-growth Sun Corridor will continue to need access to the affordable power and water the plant makes possible. While we should be doing everything possible to keep the plant operating at full capacity, this tremendous asset for Arizona is being threatened.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing a regional haze rule that could require the plant's operators to install $1.1 billion in nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions controls, even though low NOX burners and other controls were voluntarily installed at the plant just two years ago at a cost of $45 million. This technology reduced NOX emissions from the plant by 40 percent.

The EPA's proposal would cost the state thousands of jobs, billions in economic activity, and could raise water rates for the 80 percent of Arizonans, families, businesses and farmers alike, who rely on CAP water.

An alternative proposal also being considered would shut down one unit at the power plant prematurely by 2020, and require installation of expensive controls on the remaining two units by 2030. Yet there is no scientific evidence that concludes early shutdown or cost-prohibitive emission controls will lead to any visibility improvement at the Grand Canyon.

A study requested by the EPA itself and conducted by U.S. Department of Energy, concludes, "The body of research to date is inconclusive as to whether removing approximately two-thirds of the current NOX emissions would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility at the Grand Canyon or other areas of concern."

The EPA's pursuit of this regional haze rule is far from over. The EPA has scheduled five public hearings about the rule for the week of Nov. 12. Meanwhile, the EPA will be accepting written comments from concerned parties through Jan. 6.

It is critical that the families and businesses of Arizona stand united against an EPA-forced rule that would set us back for no benefit, and unravel a major economic engine that has made possible the Arizona way of life.

David Martin
Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors
Phoenix, Ariz.

Board dumbed down supt. requirements

I write this piece with a heavy heart. My sadness stems from what will come to the Chinle community as a result of the unethical actions taken by the local school board on Oct. 9, 2013.

On that day the Chinle Unified School District Governing Board hired a new school superintendent who apparently has no superintendent license, no training in school administration and no experience as a teacher or principal. Why? The good ole boy system -- that's why. How? The Board eliminated those job requirements at the August 2013 and September 2013 board meetings.

Interestingly, the superintendent qualifications were reduced while the position was being advertised. Much to his credit, Board member Mark Little publicly questioned why the Oct. 9, 2013 agenda did not include Applicant G's name or salary and benefit information.

Board member Wayne Claw, who motioned the hire, refused to publicly state the salary and benefit information saying that doing so was not part of his motion. Claw said that the information would become public after the vote.

Mr. Little was the only one to vote against hiring the new superintendent. As of this writing the superintendent's contract has not been disclosed to the public and it has been requested. One of the things that makes the Board's recent actions so suspect is that Applicant G is a former district employee with whom the Board attempted to negotiate a superintendent contract at an April 12, 2013 special board meeting.

In August 2013, I requested a copy of the contract the Board attempted to negotiate with Applicant G through a public records request, but the district refused to provide it until after the new superintendent was hired. The district claimed that the state interest of attracting the best applicants to Chinle outweighed the public's right to access to the contract. Well, the superintendent has been hired. Where's the contract? What is the Board trying to hide by not disclosing the contract? Could it be an outrageous salary and benefit package?

At a previous board meeting, board member Lucy Ayze stated that she wanted to offer the same things to our kids that the Mesa District provides to theirs. How does lowering the bar for the superintendent qualifications lend itself to increasing student achievement?

Shame on the board members. We will be the laughingstock of the Navajo Nation and the state of Arizona. Perhaps we should change our high school mascot to the "jester" so we can join in our own ridicule.

Don Stryker
Chinle, Ariz.

Don't be fooled by 'horse-traders'

I would like to do a little interjection on the pending mine scale. A metaphor is a horse of a different color if a person wanted to sell a lame horse no longer useful. The owner will fatten him up and make him drink a lot of water before the sale. If you wanted, you could even be resourceful and inject medication so the horse won't feel the lameness.

The main thing is to ensure a high sale price. The BHP Billiton "horse sale" is no different. You have lawyers, delegates and presidents make assumptions with no prior knowledge on how the market works, and showing the signs of being gullible. The sale of this "horse" seems to be shaded by how colorful and pretty this horse is. Someone said it's fast. (BTU) has lots of power (HP) has no problem drinking water (ROM). It also leaves no tracks when it runs (ASH).

I say this because I have raised horses and worked 2.5 decades in mining industries. I felt it's time to at least say something truthful. The mine is not worth more than what is stated. Break it down.

Just because the BTU is higher from a missing decimal point is describing the speed of the horse when you have never seen it run. The reality of it all is that having reviewed many drill samples at all three mines (one has closed) the sample shows the same outcome over and over -- low BTU, high ASH, moisture high.

I have worked with this throughout my career. The coal seam is mediocre at most, the thickest one on more than 8 feet with multiple shale seams. Shale is the coal killer producing high ASH content. Most power plants around here have to design the boilers in a scalable zone meaning the coal has to meet a delivery grade (13,000 BTU). Coal is only 1.5 feet to 2 feet around, 150 feet to 200 feet deep.

This coal is the medication to make the horse run faster. Blending coal is what they call it. All in all the effort to remove the dirt, removing the coal without shale and blending or mixing the coal to meet the delivery contract takes money and man power/equipment. The mine for sale has up to 10 useable seams with varied thickness and grade content. No single thick seam exists, they range from 8 feet to 1 foot. You can have 800 years of coal reserve but it does nobody any good if it's "dirty coal".

The Wyoming Dakota coal seams are over 100 feet thick with low ratio overburden and high BTU low Ash low ROM very little shale, almost close to coking grade. Hot enough to use in steel mills. This is what the Asian market is looking for. Yeah and they have a rail system in place for delivery to the Pacific Rim.

People don't be fooled by these well-seasoned horse traders.

Ken Augustine
Nageezi, N.M.

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