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December 21, 2006


As several inches of snow fell across much of New Mexico earlier this week, Navajo elders slept outside at a blockade near the site of a proposed coal-fired power plant on Navajo land. Almost a dozen local elders have been blocking access to the site since December 12 in protest of the plant. Residents living near the site of the proposed Desert Rock Coal Plant in northwest New Mexico have been camping out through cold, sleet and snow ever since. Local resident Elouise Brown says the plant would add more pollution to the area and the power generated would likely be sent elsewhere.

"The pollution goes everywhere, the smoke and the mercury. We already have enough power plants here and we don't want any more, because we live out here and we don't even have electricity."

Dailan Jake Long is a spokesperson for the protesters. He explains the elders have opposed the project from the beginning.

"A lot of them have been deceived or cheated out of their grazing permits. Their civil rights are being violated and they don't want another power plant there."

Representatives of the Navajo Power Authority and Navajo Nation president, Joe Shirley, met with the protesters earlier this week, presenting permits to access the land to take soil and water samples for a required environmental review. They say a majority of Navajos support the Desert Rock plant because it would provide an economic boost on the impoverished reservation. The protesters complain that the plant would be located on sacred land.

The reservation is already home to two large coal-fired power plants. The Desert Rock plant has been approved by the Navajo Council, but must undergo an environmental review before approval.

More information on the blockade is at www.desert-rock-blog.com. Information on the project is at Sithe Global's website: www.desertrockenergy.com.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM