Goodbye coal, Hello arctic drilling?

By Lisa

2020 is screeching to a close and I am tasked with writing something upbeat to start us on an upbeat note for the new year. Some people are hopeful that the next administration will usher in an era of peace and prosperity, a time we pivot from fossil fuels to clean power, a time of when Black lives matter and Indigenous people’s wisdom will be heard. Wouldn’t that be grand?  Unfortunately I think the world is always messier than that and at best it is two steps forward and one step back… it takes a lot of work to keep it to only one step back so some progress is made.

Some good news, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a coal fired power plant that operated for over 50 years near Page Arizona is not only permanently closed but now on its way to being reclaimed. The demolition video shows – three 775-foot-tall smokestacks and buildings collapsing in minutes. A short video is available here from ecoflight

Navajo and Hopi statements on the demolition emphasized how the impacts of coal mining and electricity generation at NGS fell on native people, including polluted air and loss of groundwater, for the benefit of big cites hungry for electricity and water. And while the power station is being reclaimed, Kayenta coal mine including coal pits and tailings piles stretching across thousands of acres remains to be cleaned up.  NGS used large amounts of groundwater for cooling and more billions of gallons of groundwater were pumped from the Navajo Aquifer to slurry the coal through a pipeline to another power plant hundreds of miles away (the Mojave Generating Station in Nevada)—that lost groundwater cannot be replaced and will take centuries to recharge in the arid southwest.   

Meanwhile instead of turning to clean energy solutions like rooftop solar, conservation and efficiency, the world is still hungry for more oil and gas. As the arctic ice retreats, oil and gas companies have moved their drilling further north.  The high-profile and hard fought wins to stop some drilling off Alaska are heartening but meanwhile Norway and other countries are plowing ahead with new oil rigs off shore in the North Sea. In late-December the Norway’s supreme court rejected efforts by Greenpeace and other groups to invalidate licenses for new oil exploration in the Arctic based on the country’s constitutional right to a clean environment (something we here in the u.s. certainly don’t have). The court found that the right to a clean environment did not bar the government from drilling for offshore oil, and that Norway did not have any legal responsibility for emissions stemming from oil it exports.  This is a truly startling statement in the context of climate change which is a global problem– whether the oil is used in Norway or elsewhere the effects are the same and are disproportionately felt in the arctic!

We need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and stop the burning!

I see I have failed in my task to be upbeat. Did you hear about the wild mink with Covid-19 that may be spreading to other wildlife? That is a very scary story I didn’t mention, so on balance perhaps this was upbeat?

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is

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