Navajo Nation Company Ends Bid to Buy Power Plant, Mine

By Press, Felicia Fonseca | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), March 25, 2019 | Go to article overview

Navajo Nation Company Ends Bid to Buy Power Plant, Mine


Press, Felicia Fonseca, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One of the largest coal-fired power plants in the West will close this year as planned after a Navajo Nation company ended its long-shot bid Friday to acquire it.

The Navajo Generating Station has operated for decades in northeastern Arizona near the Utah border, providing a hefty chunk of revenue to the Navajo Nation. Both the Navajo and the neighboring Hopi Tribe benefit from the Kayenta Mine, which feeds the 2,250-megawatt power plant, transporting the coal on a rail line.

Navajo leaders asked the Navajo Transitional Energy Company last year to look into acquiring the power plant and the coal mine as a way to save the revenue and hundreds of jobs held by tribal members. Negotiations with the power plant owners came to a halt recently over who ultimately would be responsible for cleanup.

The owners wanted the energy company to take on any known or unknown liabilities for the plant, but the Navajo Nation declined. With that and a decision Thursday from a Navajo Nation Council committee not to support the acquisition, the energy company called it quits.

SRP expects to award contracts for decommissioning as early as next month.

The news is tough for families who have relied on the jobs for generations, company spokesman Erny Zah said.

"A decade-long process would have definitely helped explore some newer opportunities that would have created economic stability for northeastern Arizona," Zah said. "And, now, we are going to do our best to see what we can do to help."

The Hopi Tribe did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Environmentalists have urged the Navajo Nation to ditch coal in favor of renewable energy projects. When the plant closes in December, the Navajo Nation will have access to a portion of the transmission lines under the existing lease agreement.

"Everyone else around the Navajo Nation is moving forward," said Percy Deal, who lives near the coal mine at Big Mountain. "We just need to go forward and start rebuilding the community around the mine and the plant. …

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