To: President Donald Trump
Obama: Don't double down on COAL in the Four Corners
President Obama, we urge you to reconsider your administration’s support for coal-fired power in the Four Corners region. It is a legacy unfit for any leader, much less the leadership of a country once considered pioneers in technological and environmental innovation. This extension condemns another generation to a quarter century of poor air and water quality and degraded public health. It is an economic gamble that robs the region of the opportunity to invest in a foundation for a clean and economically sustainable energy future. Supporting investment in a dying and dangerous industry, instead of a clean and growing one, is shortsighted and foolish.
Why is this important?
In 2015, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) finalized a Record of Decision approving another 25 years of coal mining and burning at the Four Corners Power Plant (FCPP) and Navajo Mine outside of Farmington, New Mexico. The DOIs decision was predicated on a faulty Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion and violated numerous statutes contained in the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. It is also in direct contradiction to the United States’ global climate change commitments.
The Four Corners Power Plant was built in the early 1960s with a stated useful lifespan of 50 years. Each year it spews the greenhouse gas equivalent of over 11 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere alongside thousands of tons of toxic pollutants including mercury, arsenic, selenium, lead, and nitrogen oxides. These elements degrade regional air and water quality and are dangerous to human health. Studies clearly demonstrate that communities downwind of the mouth-mine complex already experience elevated incidences of chronic respiratory diseases compared with the rest of the country.
Aside from this complex’s egregious impacts to environmental and human health, just as concerning is what this decision means for our regional economy. The coal industry is in permanent decline, the Navajo Mine is struggling to stay afloat, and FCPP needs hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize its antiquated facilities. Instead of reinforcing the economic and moral imperative to transitioning away from coal, this decision, in essence, directs hundreds of millions of dollars into toxic assets that are bound to fail. This money would be far better spent modernizing our infrastructure and preparing our energy economy for the jobs of tomorrow.