The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled last week that millions of dollars from the now-closed Mohave Generating Station in Nevada can be used for a fund to support renewable energy projects for the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation.
The Just Transition Coalition, comprised of Hopi, Navajo and environmental groups, praised the Feb. 13 decision, saying that it helps address depleted water supply, poor air quality and lost jobs in Navajo and Hopi communities.
“The CPUC decision creates a renewable energy pathway between California and our tribal nations in Arizona,” Wahleah Johns, environmental justice coordinator with the Black Mesa Water Coalition, said in a statement.
The 1580-megawatt, coal-fired power plant operated from 1971 to 2005 and caused “devastating impacts” and “economic harm” to the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation, community members said.
Coal used at the Mohave Generating Station came from the Black Mesa mine, which sits on Navajo and Hopi land in Arizona. Water from a deep aquifer in the Black Mesa area also was used to move coal to the generating station.
Last week’s decision involves the sale of sulfur dioxide allowances affiliated with the power plant, which was in Laughlin, Nev., the Just Transition Coalition said.
The Clean Air Act permits utilities to have these allowances or credits, which are emission limits. While these allowances can be traded or sold in a marketplace, federal law prohibits utilities from exceeding emission limits each year.
The California commission has jurisdiction over the generating station because Southern California Edison owned a majority of it, according to the Just Transition Coalition.
The ruling sets up a revolving fund to support deposits for clean energy projects, such as solar power, Johns said. The fund, she said, could have at least $3.5 million.
“The decision provides a national model for how communities impacted by the shutdown of coal power plants can transition to a new green economy,” the Just Transition Coalition said in a statement.
Johns explained that one goal is to send renewable energy to public utilities.
Roger Clark, a director with the Grand Canyon Trust, also hailed the utility commission’s decision, saying that it “affirms the need to offer some opportunity to those who have sacrificed so much for Southern Californians to enjoy decades of cheap power.”
He called it “an inkling of environmental justice.”
Nicole Horseherder, a member of the To’ NizhoniAni group, described the ruling as responsible.
“We appreciate the opportunity to direct our future into one that is sustainable and is closely aligned with our indigenous way of life, one that does not require us to destroy our elements of life, air, land and the protective layers around the earth,” Horseherder said in a statement.