"There's a lot at stake when it comes to energy development in New Mexico: the state's crystalline blue skies, job opportunities for native people, and a sustainable future for all of those living in the land of little rain.
Yet when it comes to weighing in on the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, New Mexico's most powerful Democratic lawmakers offer little leadership. Desert Rock is a joint project of Sithe Global and the Navajo Nation; plans are for building a 1,500 megawatt coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico, a region that's home to two existing coal-fired power plants and tens of thousands of oil and gas wells. In the town of Farmington and the rural areas around it, residents already suffer from air quality problems that are reminiscent of Houston or Los Angeles.
It's probably no surprise that former Republican Sen. Pete Domenici R, enthusiastically supported Desert Rock, but the positions of Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall don't jibe with the environmental reputations both men have cultivated. Bingaman and Udall received high marks from the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters, and they've made the phrase "green jobs" a part of their vocabulary. Bingaman champions climate change legislation, and most recently, he helped create fiscal incentives for companies pursuing carbon-capture technology.
But when it comes to Desert Rock, Bingaman demurs, saying he has no control over a coal plant destined for sovereign soil. Udall, meanwhile, says he supports the project as an opportunity for economic development, though he says he hopes the power plant will employ "carbon-reducing technologies.""
Get the Story:
Laura Paskus: It’s time to abandon Desert Rock
(High Country News 2/12)
Letter: Just say no to Navajo Nation power plant
Navajo activists keep up fight against power plant