by FELICIA FONSECA
Ventura County Star
15 June 2010
(AP) -- Navajo Vice President Ben Shelly said Tuesday that he
opposes a planned coal-fired power plant on the reservation,
even though his boss is standing by the project.
Shelly has been
campaigning for the tribe's top job on a promise to quash the
Desert Rock Energy Project, which has been stalled for years. He
said he would lobby the Tribal Council to rescind its approval
if he's elected president.
time, we're losing revenue, our people are in need," Shelly
said. "I look at this whole thing with coal-fired power plants,
(and) it seems like everybody is against it. But it seems like
us Navajo people haven't gotten it yet."
The $3 billion,
1,500-megawatt power plant has been a source of contention among
tribal members, some of whom tout its promises of jobs and
much-needed revenue while others decry it as an environmental
A spokesman for
Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., George Hardeen, said Shirley
acknowledges the obstacles, including the withdrawal of a
federal air permit and biological assessment. But he said the
tribe has not abandoned the project and that Shelly's statements
are jeopardizing any progress being made.
"The book is not
closed on Desert Rock quite yet, and for the vice president to
be campaigning and making such statements puts whatever hopes we
have and the work we need to do in jeopardy," Hardeen said
Tuesday. "He is sending confusing signals to the decision-makers
in Washington, D.C."
The tribe has
partnered with Houston-based Sithe Global Power on the project,
but the developers have not resubmitted an application for an
The U.S. Bureau
of Indian Affairs wrote to Shirley in April saying it will
resubmit an updated review of the biological assessment for the
Shelly said he
doesn't see his position against Desert Rock as a sign of
disrespect to Shirley, who chose Shelly as a running mate four
Shelly served on
the Tribal Council when lawmakers voted to pursue the
development of the power plant and said he once had high hopes
for the project. He bid goodbye to the power plant at a campaign
rally in Thoreau, N.M., over the weekend and told supporters "we
are foolish to believe we can build another coal-fired
generating plant when it can't be done."
He vowed to
instead put his energy into the development of renewable
sources, such as wind and solar.
"That's good for
us because we as Navajo people are always talking about Mother
Earth and taking care of her," he said. "And it's about time we
Shirley hasn't given up on the hope of work for Navajos who want
to return to the reservation. If the political climate signals
that the power plant isn't possible, he said Shirley certainly
is amenable to other options.
"Anything that will produce jobs
is what Joe Shirley wants," he said.