Environmental Director, Navajo Generating Station
Tuba City, AZ
After weeks spent predominantly on public lands devoid of substantial structures, the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) came as a loud reminder to the Westies that development and industry define the American West just as much as open rangeland. Complete with clanking machines and cement smoke stacks, NGS is the largest coal-fired power plant in the West. Paul Ostapuk, the Environmental Director of NGS and our guide for the morning, helped the Westies through the transition with a soft-voice and earnest enthusiasm for the work he does. Ostapuk spoke openly about the environmental drawbacks of coal, but he also believes whole-heartedly in NGS and all that it has done to reduce its pollution. On our tour, he strode ahead in his wrangler jeans and white helmet and eagerly pointed out the many pollution control systems. Ostapuk sees NGS as important for energy production, but also for the economic role it plays on the Navajo Reservation. He explained that having a huge employer like the Generating Station here allowed many Navajo to stay close to their families. Paul Ostapuk certainly challenged the Westies to think critically about what role coal should play in US energy production.
By Marijke E. Wijnen