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Begaye: NGS Closure Would be a ‘Disaster’

Begaye: NGS Closure Would be a ‘Disaster’
March 21
10:55 2017

Russell Begaye

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye wants the federal government to step in and help keep the Navajo Generating Station operating.

The coal-fired power plant is expected to close in 2019. NGS is the largest coal-fired power plant in the western U.S.

“Closing the power plant would lead to an economic disaster on the Navajo reservation,” Begaye said. “It would also negatively impact Arizona’s economy.”

NGS and the Kayenta coal mine – which is the sole supplier to the power plant – provide 3,100 direct and indirect jobs on the reservation and pay some $180 million annually in wages, according to Begaye.

An Arizona State University study estimated that NGS impacts the region to the tune of $230 million.

The closing of NGS would have a severe impact on the Navajo Nation.

Between royalties, lease agreements and other payments the money accumulated from NGS accounts for 20-percent of the tribe’s general operating funds.

“A loss of revenue of that magnitude would negatively impact life on the Navajo reservation, affecting such things as schools, infrastructure and emergency services,” Begaye said.

According to the President, the Navajo budget is already stretched thin.

At the end of 2016 the tribe’s general assistance and funeral assistance programs ran out of money.
Begaye and other NGS stakeholders meet in Washington, D.C. recently to discuss the impact of the NGS closure and other options. One idea that came up was finding ways to keep NGS open until 2029.

That additional decade would give the Navajo Nation a chance to find new sources of revenue and allow NGS employees to train for and find new jobs, according to Begaye.

Keeping NGS open until 2029 is a “fair and equitable compromise,” Begaye said.

Begaye also hopes the Trump Administration will find ways to help the tribe, especially since President Donald Trump’s campaign focused on bringing back coal jobs.

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