Enduring Legacies Native Case Studies

Case Study

Should the Navajo Nation Build a Coal-Fired Power Plant?

Author:Jovana Brown and Nora Trahant

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This two part case examines the proposal of the Navajo Nation to build a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity on its land. Part A explores the reasons why the Navajo Nation wishes to build the plant.  Part B describes the opposition which questions whether it should be built. The Navajo Nation says that this plant will have the lowest emissions of any coal-fired plant in the United States and will bring important economic benefits to the Navajo Nation by providing jobs and a steady source of revenue.  President Joe Shirley of the Navajo Nation states that the Nation chose to pursue this project as an exercise of its sovereignty. Opponents of the plant, many of whom are Navajo tribal members, say that this plant should not be built.  They say it will add considerably to air pollution already in the area and constitute a serious health hazard.  In addition to Navajo tribal members, the Governor of New Mexico, the Ute Mountain Tribe, and local environmental groups oppose the project. 

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Updated: February 11, 2009