By Aubrey Rumore for Cronkite News
Federal officials July 17 approved a multiyear deal to allow expanded mining of coal on Navajo lands and continued burning of it at the nearby Four Corners Power Plant, along with other measures.
Officials said the 67-page “record of decision” will ultimately support more than 2,300 jobs statewide and provide $40M to $60M every year in direct economic benefits to the Navajo Nation.
The deal extends the lease on the Four Corners Power Plant by 25 years, allows for an expansion of the Navajo Mine and preserves rights-of-way for roads and utilities on Navajo and Hopi lands.
It comes less than a month after operators of the Four Corners plant agreed to settle a lawsuit by federal officials and environmental groups that claimed plant emissions violated the Clean Air Act.
Under the consent decree that settled that suit, the plant’s operators agreed to spend up to $160M on equipment to reduce harmful emissions from Four Corners, and to set aside millions more for health and environmental programs.
And, under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency, the plant in late 2013 shut down the oldest and dirtiest three of the five generating units at Four Corners to help the facility meet Clean Air Act emission standards.
Federal officials cited the EPA action and others in announcing the latest decision, which they said takes into account the impact of the extension on air, water, wildlife and other factors.
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