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Navajo Delegates Vote Down NGS Legislation

Navajo Delegates Vote Down NGS Legislation
March 22
12:52 2019

Delegates debate NTEC’s proposal. (photo: Black Mesa Water Coalition)

UPDATE – MARCH 22, 2019 – Yesterday’s meeting of the Naabik’íyáti’ Committee ended with a final vote by Navajo delegates on the proposed NTEC acquisition of NGS & Peabody Coal.

Legislation 0044-19 failed with a vote of 9 approve and 11 oppose.

Voting Green:

Eugene Tso
Nathaniel Brown
Otto Tso
Hetman Daniels
Parnell Halona
Rick Nez
Paul Begay
Thomas Walker, Jr.
Edison Wauneka

Red Votes:
Eugenia Charles-Newton
Charlaine Tso
Daniel Tao
Elmer P. Begay
Mark Freeland
Jimmie Yellowhair
Raymond Smith Jr.
Wilson Stewart Jr.
Kee Allen Begay
Vince James
Nelson Begay

Abstentions:
Jaime Henio
Edmund Yazzie
Amber Crotty (absent)
Seth Damon (NABI Chair; votes only in the event of a tie)

The following is a press release issued after the vote from Eric Frankowski, the Executive Director of the Western Clean Energy Campaign:

On Thursday, March 21, the Naa’bik’iyati’ Committee (Committee of the Whole) of the Navajo Council voted down a resolution to support Navajo Transitional Energy Co.’s proposal to buy and operate Navajo Generating Station and Peabody Energy’s Kayenta coal mine, which supplies the power plant with fuel. The 11-9 defeat of the resolution led today to an announcement by NTEC that it was dropping its bid to buy the plant and mine.

In the immediate wake of the legislation’s defeat, new legislation was introduced to end the Navajo Nation’s nearly 50 years of economic dependence on coal. Legislation 0073-19 proposes rescinding the Navajo Nation’s current energy policies, which are focused on coal, and replacing them with a vision that “declares the intention of the Nation to move beyond coal source revenues and forward to sustainable and renewable energy sources.”

Groups that have spent many years on this issue, fighting for a sustainable future free of coal, provided the following statements in reaction to these historic developments:

“It’s been known for a long time that coal isn’t the future, but this final certainty is crucial. For anyone who’s been hesitant about moving strongly for renewable energy development, for building our economy in ways that will benefit our communities and our Mother Earth and Father Sky, now there is no reason or excuse to hold back. This moment is why our new council and president were elected. The legacy they will leave for the transition from coal starts now.”

–      Lori Goodman, Diné CARE

“This is an important time to remember that vast resources were once spent to install coal operations on Navajo Nation, and that vast wealth and benefit was extracted for decades over the heads of so many Navajo communities. Remembering this past shows the path ahead: full corporate responsibility for affected coal workers, full restoration of damaged land and water, and full commitment now from utilities to be customers for clean energy resources from Navajo land in ways that benefit Navajo people.”

–      Percy Deal, former Navajo Council member and former Navajo County Supervisor

“We are way behind in our planning for what comes next because so much time has been spent trying to keep Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine running. It’s time for us to come together and work cooperatively on building a clean energy economy that benefits all Navajo. There’s much hard work ahead to create this transition, but with the leadership shown by the new Navajo Council and our new president, we have a bright future in front of us.”

–      Nicole Horseherder, Executive Director, Tó Nizhóní Ání

“This is an historic moment for the Navajo, and the Council delegates should be thanked for their courage in listening to the people. For a half century, coal has divided us, but we now have an incredible opportunity to come together to create something better, especially for places like Black Mesa. Now we will focus on building something better, a new economy more in line with Navajo culture and our way of life, protecting our land and water and benefitting all communities.”

–      Marie Gladue, Black Mesa Water Coalition

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March 21, 2019 –  A big deadline looming for NGS and the coal mine in Kayenta… The Naabik’íyáti’ Committee special meeting today in Window Rock addressing the tribe’s potential support of NTEC’s independent acquisition of NGS and Kayenta Mine.

During the meeting Council Delegate, Nathaniel Brown told the committee the Nation isn’t ready for NGS to shut down and that “Shinto, Kayenta and Page schools will be impacted”.

Peabody Energy laid off about 40 miners at the Kayenta coal mine last month in preparation for the pending shutdown in December. That’s about twelve percent of their workforce. If the closure continues as planned, mine operations will end sooner than the plant because future stockpiles of coal to the site will no longer be necessary.

According to AZCentral, SRP officials have said that “while they are not looking to profit from the sale, they do want to assure the utility and its shareholders won’t be liable for any unforeseen expenses if the plant is transferred to another owner”. SRP and other owners of NGS have reportedly agreed to put money in an escrow account to cover the cost of the eventual clean up of the plant if it is transferred to NTEC. NTEC is also reportedly saying they will provide a second clean-up fund as a “backstop”, offering to issue a performance bond to cover any potential cleanup liability costs beyond what SRP claims they will provide, the amount of that bond they are willing to negotiate.

Negotiations stalled when SRP reportedly asked for full release from any further liability. Navajo leaders continue to say they are unwilling to offer that.

Read more about the recent Navajo legislation here.

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