Budget committee to debate NGS payment option, 10 am, Tuesday

The Navajo Nation Council Budget & Finance Committee is scheduled to take up Legislation 0379-18, which seeks the support of the Budget and Finance and Naabikiyati Committees and the approval of the Navajo Nation Council of a Payment Option under an Extension Lease for the owners of Navajo Generating Station to pay Navajo Nation, at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, at the Budget and Finance Committee conference room, Window Rock, Ariz.

Legislation 0379-18 is sponsored by Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates and Council Delegate Seth Damon, who also serves as the Budget and Finance chairman.

Bates has recommended a payment option that includes a one-time payment of $18.1 million by the NGS owners, who are Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District, Arizona Public Service Company, Tucson Electric Power Company, Nevada Power Company or NV Energy, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

The proposed one-time payment of $18.1 million that the owners of Navajo Generating Station would pay to the Nation would be made on Dec. 23, 2019.

The $18.1 million one-time payment is part of the payment option recommended by Bates that is included in Legislation 0379-18, which is on its way to the Council.

But before Bates’ legislation can reach the Council, it must go before the Resources and Development Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee and the Naabik’iyátí’ Committee.

According to Bates’ bill, the payment option recommended by Bates would provide advanced annual lease payments for 35 years beginning on Dec. 23, 2019, and continuing through Dec. 23, 2053, and the one-time payment of $18.1 million on Dec. 23, 2019.

The $18.1 million is for the N.G.S. retained assets and is payable to the Nation.

Language in Bates’ bill states that the June 2017 extension lease agreed upon by the Nation and Salt River Project Agriculture Improvement and Power District, Arizona Public Service Company, Tucson Electric Power Company, Nevada Power Company (NV Energy, and the Department of Water and Power City of Las Angeles became effective and binding when the Secretary of the Interior approved it on Nov. 29, 2017.

The extension lease requires the Nation to select one of five payment option, and Bates recommended payment option 7E.

Bates noted in his legislation, “While the Nation continues to seek ways to keep NGS open beyond December 2019, the extension lease is in effect and its terms must be followed.”

According to public comments on Bates’ legislation, Percy Deal of Big Mountain praised the speaker’s bill “as a noteworthy step toward honoring the agreement made last summer.”

Deal noted, “Any action that is counter to the good-faith agreement of the lease extension agreement and the objective of retiring NGS on schedule, is not in the Navajo Nation’s best interest, and in fact risks losing all the payments and assets committed to the tribe.

“Any deviation from that course threatens to void all the revenue and assets promised to the Navajo Nation, endangers access to valuable transmission lines, jeopardizes having the current owners cover the potentially huge expense of the plant decommissioning, and risks throwing away water agreements that have been far too long in coming,” he stated.

Deal recommended that any future actions related to the Nation’s energy future must include legislation that demands that Peabody take complete care of its workers, which is what Salt River Project is doing with its workforce at NGS.

He emphasized that Peabody must make substantial financial commitments to the Nation and its workers as part of its closure and clean-up plans and now would be a good time for the Nation to make those demands before it’s too late and Peabody finds a way to walk away from its obligations.

Nicole Horseherder, co-founder and executive director of To Nizhoni Ani (Sacred Springs Speaks) and a resident of Black Mesa, which is the site of Peabody’s Kayenta Mine, stated in her comments on Bates’ legislation that the payment legislation seems necessary and was required since it was negotiated as part of closure.

“The legislation to be concerned about is the one that requests a federal charter for NTEC (Navajo Transitional Energy Company),” Horseherder emphasized. “This seems like a step towards owning and operating NGS.”

She added, “The Navajo people need to demand that the speaker and other lame duck delegates like Ben Bennett quit wasting Navajo dollars and time on a plant that needs to close and be replaced with clean energy immediately. They are holding the NN Nation economy hostage. This is unacceptable.”

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