In December, Navajo President Joe Shirley sent the Obama-Biden transition team a federal agenda that outlines 27 recommended policies and requests for $2.9 billion of Obama's $775 billion stimulus program.
Some of these priorities include research funding for water rights, health issues and medical facilities on the Navajo Nation. These issues require an attentive eye from Obama, however. Shirley concealed the proposed Desert Rock power plant and carbon capture sequestration (CCS) technology as riders in the agenda. In effect, Shirley's fraudulent action not only breaches federal trust, but he invites testing nonexistent technology on innocent subjects - the Navajos. Two things are important to note about Shirley's request for funds to test CCS technology:•The agenda states "CCS is expensive and unproven in a commercial capacity power plant" and adding CCS components would add $450 million to each of Desert Rock's two furnaces. Desert Rock costs are projected at $4 billion without the consideration of CCS. Sithe Global LLC has stated it invested about $20 million in the project and the tribe loses $5 million every month. Should the federal government expend an additional $1 billion on erroneous business endeavors such as Desert Rock when it is clearly losing millions per month?
•The agenda states the Navajo Nation is willing to host a commercial-scale CCS component since the proposed Desert Rock location is ideal to test carbon storage. Unfortunately, none of Desert Rock's public hearings, primary and legal documents (air-quality permit and draft environmental impact statement) include any analysis of CCS. Inevitably, to consider CCS technology would require developers to restart the entire federal permitting process. Is it not business cliché that "Time is money"?
Altogether, Desert Rock's 20-year lack of achievement and $4 billion price tag is deviously embedded in the federal agenda. What is most disturbing, however, is the notion that Navajos are expendable guinea pigs to nonexistent technology. In 2009, we hope the legal, political and economic tangles will hasten the demise of Desert Rock.
Sarah Jane White, Sanostee, N.M., Dáilan J. Long and Luci A. Willie, Burnham, N.M.