Letters: Don’t trust Power the Future
Navajo Nation leaders are making strides in renewable energy projects and climate change adaptation strategies that are more in line with Diné Fundamental Law, under which the Navajo have a sacred obligation to protect the land, air and water, and to uphold the virtues of living in harmony with the world.
At the same time, well-funded fossil fuel groups based in Washington, D.C., are busy trying to move our Nation in the opposite direction. In the latest example, a group called “Power the Future” clumsily weighed in on national energy policy in the Navajo Times on Sept. 5 (“Green madness has to stop” and previous reports and advertisements).
This is the same group that opposed the president and Navajo leadership in supporting New Mexico’s “Energy Transition Act.” That measure provides $40 million in assistance for workers and local economic development programs, much of which will flow to Navajo families and area communities as operations at the San Juan Generating Station coal plant wind down.
Rather than stand up for Navajo communities, Power the Future supports big fossil companies whenever they can. The author of the Navajo Times article is a political operative who used to work for the former New Mexico governor, an unpopular Republican whose party lost the election last year. Apparently, this political operative found a new job representing fossil fuel companies that refuse to disclose their identity to anyone.
Meanwhile, the world is changing and this week our children are marching in the streets for climate change. Climate impacts threaten all of us, and the economics of coal are no longer profitable. We do not need Washington, D.C.-based political groups trying to get us to ignore this reality. With the coal plant closures looming, we need to be more proactive in securing projects with community benefits and in putting to beneficial use the water rights that are returning to the Navajo people after decades of exploitation by coal companies like Peabody.
We need to be working together to move the Nation forward, but these D.C.-based fossil fuel interest groups have done nothing helpful. They have not worked with us to bring more renewable energy to the Nation. They have not tried to help the Nation secure transition funding or hold Peabody accountable for reclamation at closing coalmines. And I highly doubt you will see them get behind forward-looking proposals like the new proposal by U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) to obtain federal aid for the Navajo Nation as a part of the Navajo Generating Station closure.
Power the Future only cares about wealthy fossil fuel industry interests. Their political staff tries to say they are defending tribal sovereignty. What they really want is anything that supports keeping us hooked on the rapidly declining viability of coal. And they do so without disclosing their donors. It’s disrespectful for them to weigh in on Navajo issues without telling us whose interests they are representing.
There are real, legitimate questions that need to be answered about the Navajo Transitional Energy Company’s bid to buy coal operations in Wyoming and Montana. Coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin have been going bankrupt at an alarming rate — and it’s because there is no longer a market for the toxic fuel they sell. We need to know what type of deal NTEC is getting the Nation into. They could be signing us up for huge financial liabilities.
But groups like Power the Future could care less. The Nation has a bright future, but it’s a future we can only obtain if we stand together to grow and diversify the economy without disingenuous meddling from distant, wealthy fossil fuel groups who are trying to keep us locked into the failing coal economy.
Black Mesa, Ariz.