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Navajo Lease Extension Pends on Shelly's Signature

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The Navajo Tribal Council on February 15 approved a lease extension for the Four Corners Power Plant in northwestern New Mexico until 2041, reported the Associated Press. Now the extension is on its way to the desk of tribal President Ben Shelly and pends on his signature or veto. If the Nation does not readily approve a lease extension--Shelly has 10 days to approve or deny the legislation, the Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) has threatened to close the aging coal-fired plant when the current lease expires in 2016, reported The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico.

A lease extension would secure the tribe $7 million a year with controlled inflation. Under the previous lease, the tribe only scored an average of $1.5 million annually, reported the AP.

But New Mexico Senator Lynda Lovejoy lambasted the proposed extension, calling the annual payment "meager" in a letter to Shelly dated February 19, according to The Daily Times. "Before you put your signature to the Council-approved APS lease, I urge you to seriously evaluate the impression that this is a fair agreement for the Navajo people. Are you willing to veto this measure and return it to the Council to ask, Is this the best you can do? Please bring forward a better deal,'" she stated.

Lovejoy has also stated that the lease payments should be tied to inflation or increased incrementally over time, reported the Times. She additionally criticized a waiver limiting the tribe's ability to sue the APS.

Just six weeks after entering his presidency, Shelly will make a decision involving millions of dollars and potentially affecting hundreds of jobs--something he will consider from multiple perspectives, according to Sherrick Roanhorse, chief of staff for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President. "He will weigh job development, the environment, public health and revenue creation," Roanhorse said.