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Nez terminates NTEC’s indemnity agreements for new mines

Navajo Times | Arlyssa Becenti

Members of a Navajo Transitional Energy Company team on Oct. 10, 2019, presented to Naabik’iyati Committee members, who stayed late into the night to hear from the energy company on its recent acquisition of Cloud Peak mines in Wyoming and Montana. Left to right: Brian Lewis (NTEC counsel); Steve Grey (NTEC director of government and external affairs); Tim Mclaughlin (chairman of NTEC Board); Bernard Masters (NTEC general counsel).


Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez took the initiative today (Tuesday) to terminate Navajo Transitional Energy Company’s general indemnity agreement, making sure the tribe would be off the hook for any lawsuits or cleanup costs involved in the company’s recent purchase of three coal mines in Montana and Wyoming.

“The Navajo Nation’s financial portfolio as well as our resources would be placed in a state of uncertainty if we allowed NTEC to proceed with finalizing the bonds needed to operate these three mines using the Nation’s consent given in these indemnity agreements,” Nez is quoted as saying in a press release issued this afternoon. “In addition, many experts question the viability of expanding our interests in a coal market that appears to be dwindling. We will not support initiatives attempt to circumvent or undermine the laws and policies of our Nation.”

Last Wednesday, the Naabik’iyati Committee held a work session on emergency legislation 0319-19 that would terminate the agreements, which allow the company to take out bonds backed by tribal assets in case of a default. The legislation had been tabled during the 24th Navajo Nation Council’s Fall Session, motioned by Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie and seconded by Council Delegate Nathaniel Brown.

During the Naabik’iyati meeting Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul said she felt that terminating the indemnity agreement would be the best course of action.

“The concern with Department of Justice has been to eliminate those risks and protect the assets of the Nation,” said McPaul.

Chief legislative Counsel Dana Bobroff said there is a termination clause in the indemnity agreement. The resolution that created the agreements also states that the Navajo Nation Council intended for the company’s indemnity agreement to only pertain to the Navajo Mine in New Mexico, which NTEC was created to buy.

Bobroff added the President has the right to terminate the agreements with or without Council action.

The President’s action this morning does not affect the agreements for the Navajo Mine and Four Corners Generating Station, which the tribe also partly owns.

NTEC responded to the President’s decision with the following statement: “We respect the decision of the Navajo Nation. Regardless, Navajo Transitional Energy Company remains a profitable, viable and successful business entity of the Navajo Nation. As such we will explore our options to best serve our interests as NTEC and the Navajo Nation.”

About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reported on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent.


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