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Protesters: Desert Rock Tax Breaks Could Break the Environment's Back

February 5, 2007

Trouble is mounting for a Texas company hoping to build another coal-fired power plant on Navajo land near Farmington. Last week, the New Mexico House of Representatives tabled Senate Bill 431, that would give tax breaks to the Sithe Global company for the project. Today, Navajo and environmental activists are rallying at the Capitol to oppose a similar bill in the Senate. Elouise Brown is the president of a Navajo committee that opposes the proposed plant.

"You know, a lot of people are saying the tax break is going to oo to the Navajo Nation, but that's not what's going to happen. The tax break is going to Sithe -- and Sithe is not from New Mexico."

The Navajo Power Authority claims a new plant would bring millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the impoverished reservation. But Brown points out that the area already has two large coal plants, and can't afford any more pollution.
While jobs on the reservation are important, Brown believes health and quality of life should be higher priorities.

"A coal-burning power plant has a lot of pollution, very toxic pollution, from various kinds of chemicals. Would you rather have a job -- and die from pollution?"

Developers say the plant is designed to be one of the cleanest coal plants in the country, but local elders aren't convinced. They've been camping out to oppose the project for the past two months. An environmental impact statement must be completed before any final approval.

Eric Mack/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NM