Navajo plant no longer seeking buyer; Nation explores options to preserve jobs

Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. (Facebook | Navajo County)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Navajo Nation Council looks to new technologies and more feasible options for Navajo Generating Station

The Navajo Nation’s coal-fired power plant is seeking “other viable options” after the two potential buyers pull their bid.

Avenue Capital and Middle River Power said the challenges were too great in pursuing the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona. The companies couldn’t find anyone to purchase the power and meet the required environmental impact statement on a strict timeline.

The Navajo Nation decided to move on.

“The Navajo Nation is poised to pursue other viable options to allow for the continuation of the

Navajo Generating Station beyond 2019,” said Lorenzo Bates, spokesperson for the Navajo Nation.

NGS and Kayenta Mine are set to operate until December 2019.

“Today, there are many new technologies that are becoming more and more feasible options, and there is no shortage of interest in NGS by such developers,” Bates said. “We’ve had many potential buyers and developers approach the Nation.”

NGS is the largest coal plant west of the Mississippi and provides power to customers in Arizona and Nevada. The plant is a significant source of financial resources and jobs for the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. Peabody Coal Company operates Kayenta Mine and announced that it was no longer looking for a buyer.

“The future of NGS and Kayenta remains at risk, despite the generating station running at high levels, a consistent call by tribes to preserve 850 needed jobs, third-party reports that validate the plant’s competitiveness, and a U.S. government with a significant ownership in the plant and a duty to provide power and protect the tribes,” said Peabody President Americas Kemal Williamson. “We urge the U.S. government to help lead efforts to ensure ongoing operation of the plant and mine for the benefit of the tribes and the people of Arizona. Peabody and others continue to aggressively work toward that goal.”

President Russell Begaye said he is interested in continuing exploring options with other companies that might be interested in taking over the energy plant.

Gregor MacGregor, a University of Colorado Law School student, writes that this is also an opportunity for a renewable energy project. *“*A shift to renewable energy at the NGS site is unlikely to match the coal plant and mine in megawatts, jobs, or income,” he wrote for the law center’s blog. “However, it does present an incredible opportunity for development companies and the tribes to reclaim economic benefits and contribute to a clean-energy future. The Navajo already operate the first tribally-owned solar facility, a 27.3 MW solar array, outside the town of Kayenta. Installing panels at the NGS site would continue Navajo leadership in renewable energy, and set conditions for increased energy development on tribal lands.”

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter@jourdanbb.