The largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S. is located near Page, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation. It’s scheduled to close at the end of 2019. That’s worrisome news for the 800 people who work there and at the coal mine that supplies it.

Gearon: “These workers, like many people on the reservation, will have a tough time finding work.”

That’s Jihan Gearon, executive director of Black Mesa Water Coalition, a group advocating for renewable energy on the Navajo Nation. She acknowledges that the lost jobs will be a hardship, but she also sees potential for a better future after the plant closes.

She says relying on coal has harmed Navajo people’s health, environment, and long-term economic future. Now, they can consider new paths.

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Gearon: “What other types of jobs can we create that will actually benefit our people, protect the environment, and uphold our culture, strengthen our culture?”

She says Navajo land could be used to generate solar power, which could provide local clean energy as well as revenue if sold to neighboring states.

For a community that has relied heavily on coal, transitioning to clean energy will be hard. But Gearon has high hopes for a sustainable, coal-free future for the Navajo Nation.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy. (Navajo Generating Station photo source: Wikimedia)

Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...