Protesters Target Salt River Project's Coal-Fired Power Plant

By Devin Browne
December 09, 2011

PHOENIX -- Sixteen people were arrested at the Salt River Project (SRP) offices in Tempe on December 2. The protesters want the utility company to stop operating its coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation.

It was the third protest in three days – all targeting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the businesses associated with it. ALEC is a policy research group that focuses on building private-public partnerships. SRP lobbyist Russell Smolden is Arizona’s private sector chair in ALEC.

Protesters have targeted SRP for their coal and water extraction practices at the Navajo Generating Station.

"We’re asking the SRP to stop their businesses up there that are basically extracting minerals from the land, forcing native elders off the land, and affecting their water so they can’t even farm," said Alex Soto, with the O'odahm Solidarity Cross-Borders Collective. "So we’re demanding that they stop their operations.

Photo courtesy Lela Norem.
Jody Manuelito, 12, a direct descendant of Chief Mauelito, beats on a hand-made drum at the protest targeting the Salt River Project's coal-fired power plant in Black Mesa.

The activists allege the coal-fired plant causes numerous health problems, including respiratory disorders, lung disease and asthma.

"Those are issues that have been raised by others, without a lot of attribution," said Scott Harelson, with SRP. "In other words - not a lot of science behind it. The Navajo Generating Station is one of the cleanest coal-fired generating plants in the nation."

Harelson says that currently 8 percent of SRP’s energy comes from renewable resources. However, presentations at ALEC's States and Nation Policy Summit focused on the cost-savings of coal and discussed repeal of the Clean Air Act.