Navajo Natinn President Ben Shelly’s office attorney, Heather Claw, pushed me out of a meeting between Shelly, Navajo Council Speaker Johnny Naize, Council Delegate Russell Begaye, Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources Director Fred White, Shelly’s staff assistant Michelle Henry and Shelly’s Communications Director Erny Zah. That was about 2:15 p.m.
The meeting is reportedly an “Energy” meeting. I asked Heather as she was pushing me out of the room and telling me not to make a scene, why the meeting was closed. As soon I stepped into the meeting, Heather got up from her chair and told me the meeting was closed. I asked why and she said that it was a “Leadership” meeting. I kept asking why the meeting was closed since it was a meeting of Navajo Nation elected officials. As she continued pushing me out the door, she said that the meeting was closed to allow the leaders to speak openly.
I’m standing outside now and I ask her if the meeting is about BHP Billiton. Heather doesn’t answer as she walks back into the room.
But from my brief time in the closed door meeting of tribal public servants who are being paid with the People’s money, the meeting room, which was the Pine room, was very packed.
I’m now sitting in the hotel lobby where I plan to take photos of everyone leaving the closed door meeting. When the door opened a few minutes ago, I could see a power point presentation with the acronym “NTEC” on it.
Council Delegates Roscoe Smith, who is Resources & Development Committee vice chairperson, and Danny Simpson briefly left the meeting. Delegate Smith bought a snack and returned to meeting. Delegate Simpson greeted security and then came over and shook my hand. He also asked why I left the meeting and so I told him that Heather pushed me out of the meeting. Delegate Shepherd said that eh would talk with her.
Executive Office attorney Heather Claw just left meeting and briefly visited with President Ben Shelly’s security and staff assistant Michelle Henry. Speaker Naize also came out of the meeting and walked down the hall.
Before driving from my office in Window Rock, Ariz., to the Courtyard Marriott which is in Farmington, N.M., I received a press release from Speaker Naize, who announced that he was sponsoring legislation to the Navajo Nation Council for $4 million for Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC. But I was informed that the sponsor is Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates, who is the Budget & Finance Committee chairperson and Investment Committee member.
HERE IS THE CORRECTED SPEAKER NAIZE PRESS RELEASE AND AT THE END OF THE PRESS RELEASE IS A LINK TO DELEGATE BATES’ PROPOSED LEGISLATION FOR $4 MILLION FOR NTEC:
Delegate Bates sponsors legislation seeking $4 million
For costs associated with the acquisition of BHP Navajo Mine
WINDOW ROCK – Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, Tse’Daa’Kaan, Upper Fruitland) introduced Legislation No. 0305-13, seeking approximately $4 million from the Navajo Nation’s Unreserved, Undesignated Fund Balance to fund initial and immediate costs and obligations associated with the completion of ongoing negotiations and to close on the transactions for the acquisition of Navajo Mine from BHP Billiton.
On Apr. 29, the Council approved the formation of the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC to carry out necessary business actions on behalf of the Nation in its endeavors for the possible acquisition of the BHP Navajo Mine.
“When the Council formed NTEC, it empowered the NTEC board to carry out the purchase of Navajo Mine, but there was no funding behind it,” said co-sponsor Speaker Johnny Naize (Low Mountain, Many Farms, Nazlini, Tachee/Blue Gap, Tselani/Cottonwood). “It is critical that NTEC be funded to carry out the next step in this process.”
Among other economic impacts, Speaker Naize pointed out that the purchase of Navajo Mine would preserve over 800 jobs at the Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Mine, and preserve $40 million of annual taxes and royalties to the Navajo Nation.
According to the legislation, if the proposed bill is approved by Council and executed by President Ben Shelly, the $4 million will be released in three disbursements to NTEC.
The first disbursement totaling approximately $1.6 million will be for NTEC’s pre-closing operating expenses and for outstanding invoices for transaction expenses.
In the second disbursement, approximately $1.3 million will be released for additional estimated transaction expenses to closing, upon the signing of the Equity Interest Purchase Agreement between NTEC and BHP Billiton.
The final disbursement, totaling approximately $1.1 million will be used for NTEC’s post-closing operating expenses, upon the closing of the Coal Supply Agreement between NTEC and the Four Corners Power Plant.
Initially, the Mine Management Agreement with BHP Billiton and a Coal Supply Agreement with APS, were scheduled to be completed by July of this year. However, due to several setbacks, NTEC’s timeframe for completing the potential purchase has lessened.
Delegate Bates said the Arizona Corporation Commission’s decision earlier this year to open an inquiry, which was closed in September, into the possible deregulation of the electric market in the State of Arizona was a major setback.
“Now that the ACC decision came down we can move, but what it has done is it has tightened up the calendar and timeline for the purchase,” said Delegate Bates. “The Navajo Nation, APS, and BHP have to make decisions to stay within that timeline.”
The cost of the mine is estimated to be $85 million, for which a funding source has yet to be determined.
According to the assignment of legislation memorandum, the bill will be considered by the Resources and Development Committee, Budget and Finance Committee, Naabik’iyátí’ Committee, and the Navajo Nation Council.
Please visit http://www.navajonationcouncil.org/Legislations/2013/Oct/0305-13.pdf to view the proposed legislation. The five-day comment period for the legislation ends on Oct. 7.