In pursuit of economic justice: The Just Transition Coalition
The Mohave Generating Station is a 1,580-megawatt coal-fired plant located in Laughlin, Nevada. In 1999, the Grand Canyon Trust, Sierra Club, and National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit alleging Clean Air Act violations. This lawsuit resulted in a settlement requiring the plant ownership to install pollution controls within a six-year timeframe. Rather than install the required controls, the owners chose to close the plant on December 31, 2005.
During plant operations, coal was mined then mixed with precious water to slurry it from the Navajo and Hopi reservations in eastern Arizona to Laughlin, some 273 miles distant. With the closure, the Navajo and Hopi people lost some $20 million per year in coal royalties and now suffer one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. Meanwhile, owners of the Mohave Generating Station are receiving about $30 million per year from sales of their unused SO2 emission credits.
An innovative proposal
One year prior to the closure, the Trust began organizing the Just Transition Coalition (JTC). The group has led efforts to encourage the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to require that the revenue from the Mohave’s emission credits be earmarked and used to fund renewable energy projects, specifically projects that would be controlled or owned by local tribes who have suffered great economic loss as a result of the plant closure. In two landmark decisions, the CPUC ruled that the revenue from the SO2 emission credits does not have to flow directly back to ratepayers as the plant’s owners alleged). The CPUC also ordered the owners to set aside the revenues while it reviewed our proposal.
Concurrently, the Trust engaged the Hopi and Navajo people in evaluating potential renewable energy projects and financing options to create equity ownership of renewable energy facilities. Projects include several solar thermal and wind generating sites located on reservation and private land owned by the tribes. In addition, the Trust and JTC are working with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) in promoting the conversion of the former generating station into a solar thermal generating station, with shareholder opportunities available for the two tribes.