SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Environmentalists say the federal government unlawfully created an advisory group that shut out the public and subverted efforts to clean up emissions at Arizona's Navajo Generating Station, "one of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the West."
Tribal conservation groups To' Nizhoni Ani, Black Mesa Water Coalition and Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior in Federal Court on Monday, claiming the agencies violated the Administrative Procedure Act and Federal Advisory Committee Act.
In February 2013, the EPA published a proposed rule requiring the Navajo power plant to install selective catalytic reduction technology to reduce emissions.
That same month, the government also established the Technical Working Group committee which worked with EPA and Interior agents to craft a new agreement allowing the power plant to avoid installing new pollution-reducing technology and to continue operating for the next 35 years, according to the complaint.
The agreement was approved as a final rule in July 2014 and published in the Federal Register on Aug. 8, 2014.
Plaintiffs say the federal government established the committee "for the sole purpose" of crafting an alternative to a new EPA rule that required the Arizona power plant to reduce emissions with new technology.
"At no time were the Technical Working Group's meetings and process publicly noticed or made open or available to tribal conservation organizations or other members of the public," the 16-page complaint states.
By failing to file a charter detailing its objectives, duties and scope activity before meeting or making decisions, the committee violated the law, the tribal groups claim.
The committee also failed to publish notice of its meetings, file records with the Library of Congress or disclose spending reports as required by law, according to the groups.
"Instead, the Technical Working Group met behind closed doors, shutting out the voices of local tribal community members most heavily impacted by continued pollution from [the power plant]," the 16-page complaint states.
The Navajo Generating Station, the eighth-largest coal power plant in the nation and largest on the Colorado plateau, is also the fourth-biggest source of nitrogen oxide emissions in the nation, according to the complaint.
The 2,250-megawatt power station is located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, the largest Native American tribal land in the United States near Page, Arizona.
To' Nizhoni Ani translates as "beautiful water speaking" in the Navajo language, according to the complaint.
The groups seek a declaration, injunction and order vacating the Technical Working Group agreement and final rule.
Neither the EPA nor Department of the Interior immediately responded to requests for comment.
The plaintiffs are represented by Brad A. Bartlett of the University of Denver's Environmental Law Clinic and Rene P. Voss of San Anselmo, California.
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