The sun has set on the Navajo Generating Station, which burned its last pile of coal earlier this month. Economics finally caught up with the West’s largest coal plant, forcing it to shutter as cheap natural gas and renewables made it irrelevant to the energy grid.
The plant leaves behind a complicated legacy. The power station depleted groundwater and polluted skies and landscapes. It also brought jobs and revenue to one of the poorest places in the U.S. The Navajo and Hopi tribes supported by the plant fought to keep it open, going so far as to consider buying it. With that plan failing, it’s possible to imagine a new future for the area. One that cleans up the scars the coal plant left behind and puts the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe at the forefront of the just transition, a framework that ensures vulnerable communities aren’t left behind as the world moves to renewable energy.