Press Release Jul 31, 2014

EPA Fails to Protect Clean Air, Exempts Navajo Generating Station Coal Plant from Safeguards

Clean Air Advocates Vow Fight After Decision Allowing Controversial Coal Plant to Keep Polluting for Decades

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK – Clean air and Grand Canyon advocates today blasted a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will threaten air quality in the Grand Canyon region by allowing one of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants to continue polluting for decades.

For nearly 40 years, Navajo Generating Station (NGS) has damaged the air quality of local communities as well as the Grand Canyon and 10 other national parks and wilderness areas across the Southwest. Today’s decision comes after years of delay, and rejects the Clean Air Act requirement to make NGS cut smog-forming nitrogen oxide by 85 percent over the next five years. Instead, it will let NGS pollute for at least another three decades, with vague hopes of an earlier deal. EPA says it can water down the Clean Air Act requirements because NGS is located on Navajo Nation lands.

“Today’s decision means decades more of dirty air for the Dine’ People,” said Nicole Horseherder, a Navajo activist from Black Mesa. “As the government cleans up dirty power plants, they should begin in their own back yard with the units they own. Making the people in the shadow of these smokestacks wait the longest for clean air ignores the health and welfare of the Navajo People. Its time to end racial discrimination and stop making Navajo residents give up their basic human rights for a few jobs and a few dollars that have never help bring prosperity to the Nation.”

“The Navajo people are poorly served by today’s decision, which delays environmental justice for our homeland,” said Lori Goodman, Board member of Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. “Our communities suffer so that people in Phoenix and elsewhere can have cheaper water and electricity – for which we pay dearly with impacts to our health and environment. All Americans should have the same right to clean air and the protection of the law.”

“EPA’s decision is unconscionable,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It fails to give local people and our national parks clean air protections they’ve waited for decades to have. Today’s decision is especially disappointing because Grand Canyon is one of America’s greatest vistas, and NGS is one of the worst power plants. For these reasons, it will not stand.”

NGS is the largest coal-fired power plant on the Colorado Plateau and one of the ten biggest polluters in the country. It is just 12 miles from the Grand Canyon and responsible for frequently hazy vistas at the park. NGS is owned jointly by the federal government and several utilities, including Salt River Project, the operator of NGS. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has a legal requirement and certainly an obligation to the American people to protect air quality in America’s iconic national parks and wilderness areas.

“Navajo Generating Station is one of the most polluting coal plants in the country and has fouled world-renowned Grand Canyon for far too long,” said Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club. “EPA’s proposal does not meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act – there are significant issues with delays, enforceability, and clear pathways to a clean energy transition. EPA should not make special exceptions to one of our nation’s dirtiest polluters.”

In addition to Grand Canyon, NGS impacts visibility at 10 other national parks and wilderness areas. It impairs visibility for roughly four months a year at the most impacted parks. National parks in the Four Corners region attract millions of tourists and are the backbone of regional economies. According to the National Park Service, the national parks in the Four Corners region most affected by Navajo’s pollution annually generate a combined total of $1.08 billion in spending.

By choosing to let NGS continue polluting for decades, EPA’s decision will cost between $13 million and $34 million per year in public health impacts, within the state of Arizona alone.


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit

Diné CARE is located on the Navajo Nation and is a non-profit organization that works with many Navajo communities affected by energy and environmental issues For more information, visit

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit

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