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New proposal takes aim at renewable energy

By Krista Allen
Special to the Times

TSÉGHÁHOODZÁNÍ

After 11 Diné lawmakers Thursday evening voted against a bill that supported Navajo Transitional Energy Company’s acquisition of Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine, Delegate Elmer Begay said he will introduce a proposal to move beyond coal toward sustainable and renewable energy sources.

That bill – No. 073-19 – was introduced yesterday and now is in the five-day comment period.

“It’s going to be about energy policy,” Begay said in Navajo. “To rescind that energy policy that we have that was put in place (the Navajo Energy Policy of 2013). So, this bill will be moving forward from coal to renewable energy sources.”

landscape with red rocks in background

Navajo Times | File
The Kayenta Solar Facility, located just north of Tódinéeshzhee’, gleams through the haze of heat on Aug. 24, 2017. The 27.3-megawatt plant is the first solar facility on the Navajo Nation.

Begay said his bill would create a “Navajo Generating Station-Kayenta Mine transition task force” to address issues.

“The issues that we have,” Begay explained, “the issue that we have today: To assist workers and what to do with the plant property (in LeChee, Arizona). Where are we Diné people going to be involved?”

Peabody Energy spokesperson Charlene Murdock told the Navajo Times Friday afternoon that Peabody officials applaud stakeholders who’ve worked to protect jobs and preserve abundant, low-cost energy for Arizona residents.

“Even though these efforts ultimately couldn’t prevent premature closure of NGS,” Murdock said. “Kayenta Mine will continue to safely provide coal and will transition to ongoing reclamation late this year.”

Groups that have spent decades fighting on this issue and for a sustainable future free of coal, said they’ve known for a long time that coal isn’t the future.

“But this final certainty is crucial,” Lori Goodman of Diné CARE said in a statement. “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.”

Goodman says this is why members of the 24th Navajo Nation Council, President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer were voted into office.

“The legacy they will leave for the transition from coal starts now,” she said.

Marie Gladue, of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, added that this is a historic moment for Diné Bikéyah and the delegates should be thanked for their courage in listening to the people.

“For half a 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,” Gladue said. “Now we will focus on building something together – a new economy more in line with Navajo culture and our way of life, protecting our land and water and benefitting all communities.”

The 9 delegates who voted green say they voted to stand with the mine and plant workers.

“The Nation basically voted to not support it with last night’s vote,” Delegate Paul Begay told the Times Friday morning. “The whole negotiation was between the (five) NGS owners (and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) and NTEC.”

Begay represents five northwestern Navajo chapters, including LeChee.

“It’s sad for us western delegation that stand for the miners and NGS employees,” said Begay, who retired from working at NGS before becoming a delegate.


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