Building equity into the renewable energy transition

Image of renewable solar energyThis year, the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station just outside of Shiprock, New Mexico, is scheduled to shut down. When it does, it will leave behind a legacy of air and water pollution and land degradation in northwest New Mexico. It will also leave hundreds out of work in the Navajo Nation’s largest community.

“Our region has borne the brunt of the fossil fuel industry,” said Joseph F. Hernandez, the Diné energy organizer for the NAVA Education Project and Navajo Nation member who lives in Shiprock. “We have sacrificed a lot just to supply that American energy,” he said. “What is needed is for our community to heal.”

In the Four Corners region, the energy transition is already underway. Smokestacks are falling as solar farms sprout in the desert. For community and labor organizers, the challenge moving forward isn’t simply replacing fossil-fueled power plants with solar panels and wind turbines, it’s ensuring that workers and communities are prepared for the transition and have a say in it.

New Mexico is one of six Western states with laws on the books aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy Transition Act, which New Mexico passed in 2019, focuses on eliminating emissions from energy production, with the goal of producing 100% carbon-free energy by 2050. 01-12-22

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