Their responses over a one-week period came close to being split evenly, with 1,209 people in support of the proposed plant and 1,213 opposing it.
The Times' poll is not scientifically conducted, but gives the newspaper's readers a chance to voice their opinions on local, regional and national issues that are in the news.
"The proposed new Desert Rock Power Plant promises hundreds of new jobs and economic benefits on and near the Navajo Nation, but opponents to the project say it will add to pollution concerns and isn't worth it," the question stated. "Do you support or oppose plans for Desert Rock?"
Earlier this year Washington, D.C.-based legal firm Bracewell & Giuliani notified Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen L. Johnson that it would sue the federal agency if the power plant's Prevention of Significant Deterioration, or PSD, permit was not granted within 60 days.
Bracewell & Giuliani represents Sithe Global Power, LLC, which intends to build the plant for Desert Rock Energy Company, LLC, its subsidiary. The clock started ticking on Sithe's intentions Jan. 17, when the letter was sent.
Frank Maisano, an attorney with Bracewell & Giuliani, said estimates indicate the plant would furnish about $50 million in revenue for the tribe and generate "thousands of construction jobs" and about 400 permanent jobs.
"We received a letter from EPA saying they hoped to act soon, but that's what they've said for the last two months," Maisano said.
Regarding the poll question, Maisano said when he cast a ballot early, when about 600 people responded, the poll was strongly in favor of the plant.
"That tells me there's a broad swath of people who are interested in the project because of the economic need for it," Maisano said.
Diné CARE (Citizens Against Ruining the Environment), about a month after Sithe's letter to the EPA was sent, released a report detailing its objections to the pulverized coal-burning plant. They are closely woven with the tribe's fundamental laws — beliefs its members say were taught to them and set out the ways they conduct their lives in balance with the universe.
Sithe's and the tribe's frustrations come from the length of time EPA has held the ruling in limbo. The power company began working with the agency in 2003 to get the PSD permit. The agency determined its application to be complete May 21, 2004. By law it is supposed to issue the permit no later than 12 months after it determines an application is complete. To date no ruling is in hand.
Desert Rock is proposed for construction near Burnham on the Navajo Nation, about 30 miles southwest of Farmington.
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