LEGISLATION 0006-17: An Action Relating to Naabik’íyáti’ Committee; Supporting Communications with the Unions to Maintain the Operation of Navajo Generating Station Beyond 2019, which is sponsored by Navajo Council Delegates Nathaniel Brown and Steven Begay is on the proposed Jan. 17 AGENDA of the Navajo Nation Council Naabik’iyati Committee.
I wrote this story for the Gallup Independent, which was published on Jan. 9:
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Legislation to keep Navajo Generating Station operating past 2019 is on a fast track to the Navajo Nation Council Naabik’iyati Committee, which has final authority over it.
The Naabik’iyati Committee is meeting Jan. 11 and that is the day Legislation 0006-18, which seeks support for communications with the United Mine Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to maintain the operation of the power plant beyond 2019, can be acted on by the Naabik’iyati.
The U.M.W.A. and I.B.E.W. stated in a four-page “Proposed Advocacy Program with Navajo Nation Supports Ownership Transition” that the communication must involve the participation of the plant owners, the Central Arizona Project, President Russell Begaye, and the Council in a media blitz to generate broad support for new owners.
According to the bill, it was posted on the Council’s website Friday at 5:24 p.m. for the mandatory five-day public comment period, which ends Wednesday and makes the bill eligible for action the next day, Thursday.
On Nov. 27, the U.S. Department of the Interior approved a replacement lease that set December 2019 as the date for when the owners of Navajo Generating Station would begin retiring the largest coal-burning power plant in the west.
The Nation and the four owners of the generating station – Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service, NV Energy and, Tucson Electric Power – agreed in June on terms to retire the station in 2019 after the utilities concluded that it no longer made economic sense to keep the plant running.
Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown is the main sponsor of the bill to support the efforts of the unions to stop the decommissioning of the plant and to keep the plant burning coal from Peabody’s Kayenta Mine to generate electricity to pump water from the Colorado River through the Central Arizona Project to Arizona’s southern metropolitan areas.
Council Delegate Steven Begay is his co-sponsor.
Scott Harelson, spokesperson for the Salt River Project, recalled that the power plant owners decided in February to end their participation in the plant when the current lease term ended in 2019 after it became clear that current and forecasted low natural gas prices had made coal generation there uneconomical.
Harelson said that under the extension lease, coal combustion at the generating station would cease by Dec. 22, 2019, and retirement of the facility would begin.
The decommissioning of the plant is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 22, 2024.
But Brown and Begay stated in their bill that “a process to identify new plant ownership continues and a number of high caliber investors have expressed interest.”
The number of investors is not stated in the Brown-Begay legislation and the high caliber investors are not identified.
According to a Dec. 19, 2017, letter to Brown from Marie Justice, UMWA Local 1924 president, keeping the power plant and mine operating would maintain 825 skilled jobs, keep families together and close to home; benefit their extended families, support schools, government, and fire and police service, and the purchasing of goods and services from Navajo businesses.
Justice noted, “Because these operations generate revenues supporting 22 percent of the Navajo Nation’s annual general budget, all of our Navajo people benefit from them.”