Navajo Leaders Met With White House Officials to Deter NGS Shutter

The 44-year-old Navajo Generating Station is scheduled to shut down in December 2019, unless the Navajo Nation can do something about it. (Photo courtesy Amber Brown/SRP)

Navajo Nation officials met with representatives from the Trump administration and the Energy and Interior departments this week to discuss options to save the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) ahead of its slated closure in 2019.

Last year, the plant’s operator, the Salt River Project (SRP), announced plans to shut down the 2,250-megawatt plant near Page, Arizona, at the end of 2019. The closure of the West’s largest coal-fired power plant and its feed mine, Kayenta Mine, threaten the Navajo and Hopi economies. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other officials have previously advocated for keeping the coal-fired plant, co-owned by the federal government, open.

After two investment firms pulled out of purchase deals, the Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC) began considering ownership of the plant and the continued operation of Kayenta Mine. Wholly owned by the Navajo Nation, the for-profit NTEC owns the Navajo Mine and holds a seven-percent ownership interest in the Four Corners Power Plant in northwest New Mexico.

“NTEC is currently working to evaluate all possible avenues to ensure the continued operations of Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine past 2019,” NTEC CEO Clark Moseley previously said in a statement.

“This is a very complex matter with numerous moving pieces and we are examining all potential strategies to meet the goals of the Navajo Nation. I’m very confident that we have a diligent path forward,” Moseley also said, reported

NGS was sanctioned by the U.S. Congress in the late 1960s to provide a stable, long-term power source for the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and to bring jobs and revenues to tribal communities in northern Arizona. (CAP is not legally obligated to purchase electricity from the plant under new ownership, the Congressional Research Service recently found.)

After SRP announced plans to retire the plant 20 years ahead of schedule, roughly a third of the plant’s 500 employees have accepted new jobs with SRP in metro Phoenix. In remote Northern Arizona near the Utah border, few if any immediate job alternatives exist for tribal members. NGS jobs also pay better than any other job option on the Navajo Nation. Many workers will be forced to uproot in search of other employment.

During his last State of the Nation address in October, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye asked, if NGS shutters in 2019, “how do we prepare for this diminishing of revenue to the Navajo Nation?”

The answer, he said, is the Naat’áanii Development Corp.

Tribal leaders established the holding company in July 2017 to attract manufacturing corporations and promote job creation. Naat’áanii Development Corp. is currently communicating with businesses interested in setting up operations on the Navajo Nation.

According to Begaye’s written report, through Naat’áanii, the tribe intends to eliminate dual taxation for its subsidiaries. The move is drawing the attention of corporations such as Boeing, Airbus, Waste Management and Altree, reported the Farmington Daily Times.

Partnerships with these comes could “easily” replace lost revenue, said Begaye, who will transition out of office in January, when Vice President Jonathan Nez will take over as president.