Navajo Nation looking for energy and environmental justice
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — In a peaceful demonstration against energy imperialism, members of Navajo Nation demonstrated the power of solar along the Central Arizona Project canal in Scottsdale, using a large mobile solar-powered generator to run pumps that moved water from the canal into nearby buckets and barrels.
“Many Navajo families had to pen their sheep alone today on the reservation to be here in Scottsdale and show SRP (Salt River Project) that solar works,” said Marshall Johnson, Navajo Nation resident and To Nizhoni Ani co-founder. “We were able to get a little bit of water from CAP pumped into our barrels today before the police moved us, and we are going to take this back to our sheep on the reservation.”
After decades of coal industry on Navajo Nation, many Navajo families have not benefited; thousands still lack electricity and running water to their homes and haul water in trucks every week for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. One of those water trucks was used to bring the solar-powered pump alongside the CAP canal in Scottsdale today.
Navajos held the demonstration to send a message to the owners of the Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant near Page, Arizona that Navajo families want a transition away from a polluting coal industry on Navajo land that has powered CAP pumps for decades at the expense of residents’ land, health, water, and culture on the Navajo Reservation.
“We were a small group moving a small amount of water with solar today, however if the political willpower of the Obama Administration and SRP were to follow and transition NGS to solar all Arizonans could have reliable water and power without pollution and without injustice,” said Wahleah Johns, with the Black Mesa Water Coalition.
The primary Navajo Generating Station owners include Salt River Project (the plant operator) and the U.S. government’s Department of Interior. Today SRP provides Arizonans less than 2 percent solar power — an energy travesty.
The aging Navajo Generating Station is among the most polluting coal-fired power plants in America.
The civil disobedience action demonstrated solar power as a solution. Two of the Navajo Generating Station owners are withdrawing ownership stake due to California and Nevada’s renewable energy laws.
“The Navajo Nation could generate thousands of megawatts of solar energy, providing thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars for the regional economy,” said Jihan Gearon, BMWC Executive Director. “Our groups here today support the need for a Just Transition of NGS to renewable energy.”
“The Navajo Nation should be concerned and show their support to our relatives on Black Mesa,” said Navajo Nation tribal member Donna House. “We need to protect our health and water from the Navajo Generating Station and its owners. We need to be aware of how much water is being carried down to Phoenix, Tucson, it’s surrounding cities,” House said. “Today I saw the Central Arizona Project and it was one of the saddest days of my life. To know that people have to haul water to their homes everyday, and that there are many more still living without electricity should give all of us the courage to stand for a cleaner solar transition from NGS.”
Navajo community members were joined by people from across the country who are also impacted by dirty energy. Collectively these groups have joined together to form the Climate Justice Alliance and last week launched the Our Power Campaign in Black Mesa, Arizona; Richmond, California; and Detroit, Michigan.
The campaign will expand to communities across the country over the coming years. With nearly 40 organizations, CJA’s members are rooted in Indigenous, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Islander, and working-class white communities throughout the United States. Together, they apply the power of deep grassroots organizing, direct action, coalition building, civic engagement, policy advocacy, and a variety of communications tools to win local, regional, statewide, and national shifts.