Against Desert Rock project

In response to a commentary published in the Navajo Times by Steven Begay, general manager of Dine Power Authority, regarding the proposed Desert Rock power plant near Shiprock, N.M. Mr. Begay states that the Desert Rock project shall be the biggest coal-fired plant in the United States and that it will set new standards for the country. It is a common trick when trying to force a project upon a population to quietly take the deal as far as you can before you go public, and then speak about the project as though it were a foregone conclusion that it will be built once opposition arises.

He speaks of Desert Rock as though it were a stand-alone project in the middle of a pristine desert. In reality, it would be the third coal-fired generating station within a 20-mile radius of the San Juan plant. The emissions would mingle with two existing plants that already rain down mercury on my family. Those plants constitute the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States. To say that this one is cleaner, ignoring the cumulative effect of three plants, is an insult to the intelligence of the Dine' people. Desert Rock would only serve to further subjugate Navajo people to the interests of Big Coal and further erode sovereignty by partnering with multinationals whose interests are far from Dinetah.

Mr. Begay stated that carbon capture and sequestration technology associated with Desert Rock would require funds from the federal government. Wasn't this the same bunch that told us sovereignty and tribal self-sufficiency were the stated goals? He speaks as though he is unaware of the fact that new standards are already being proposed by the state of New Mexico and congressmen in Washington that would render his project obsolete.

The state of New Mexico saw through this plan and voted against a proposed multimillion-dollar tax break for this huge multinational corporation. Sithe Global, Dine Power and some tribal leaders failed to persuade the New Mexico Legislature that this project was in the best interests of the citizens of the Navajo Nation or New Mexico. Desert Rock is not a Navajo project. It is a project that has some Navajos behind it. Sithe Global has no loyalty to the Dine' people and this plan, on Navajo land, will benefit them. Do you think they will spend that money on the Navajo Nation? No, the real money from Desert Rock would end up in a few deep pockets.

Mr. Begay further insults our intelligence in a way that follows the old Ronald Reagan mentality that trees pollute and ketchup is a vegetable by informing us that global warming is caused by ''human activities on earth such as work, home living and transportation.'' It seems that coal-fired power plants did not make his short list, a convenient untruth. He talks to us like children when he says ''denying Desert Rock a permit will not end global warming.'' This issue is too critical for us to be influenced by someone who thinks we are too ignorant to make decisions that will affect our grandchildren.

We will never roll over and let you build this monster without a fight because the only rational solution is to keep this Earth alive. I have a question for Mr. Begay and Joe Shirley: If you could choose between two generations of running on coal or gasoline and countless generations living the old way, which would you choose?

- Thomas F. Johnston

Fruitland, N.M.