In March, Russell Begaye, president of the Navajo Nation, told Breitbart News that his people were counting on President Donald Trump to help extend a coal mine lease that provides thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to members of the tribe and the local economy.
For decades, clean coal power has been a critical economic engine for the Navajo Nation by creating thousands of jobs and substantial revenue for our people. The expedited closure of the Navajo Generating Station, the largest clean coal fired coal plant in the western United States, would create an economic disaster that would devastate Navajo families and our entire economy.
President Trump ran on a pledge to ‘bring back coal’ and we believe that he will keep his word and stand up for coal workers on the Navajo Nation and across the United States,” Begave said. “We are also optimistic about working with the Trump Administration to help our people given the President’s unwavering support for coal jobs and mine workers.
On Tuesday, Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the lease for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), a three-unit, 2,250-megawatt, coal-fired power plant located on tribal trust lands leased from the Navajo Nation near Page, Arizona, has been extended.
“Since the first weeks of the Trump Administration, one of Interior’s top priorities has been to roll up our sleeves with diverse stakeholders in search of an economic path forward to extend NGS and Kayenta Mine operations after 2019,” Zinke said, continuing:
Operating NGS and the Kayenta Mine through 2019 is the first step to meet this priority. This Navajo Nation Council’s endorsement of a new lease gives NGS and Kayenta Mine workers a fighting chance and gives Navajo and Hopi economies a moment to regroup for the work ahead. Now, NGS operations can continue while stakeholders examine opportunities for a new operating partner to extend the life of the plant beyond its original 50-year lease.
An Interior backgrounder explained that “the current NGS co-owners have expressed their intention to not operate the facility after December 2019; as a result, stakeholders associated with NGS have been jointly discussing the facility’s future in talks facilitated by Interior. Ths Interior official said:
Without the new lease ratified by the Navajo Nation this week, preparations to start the decommissioning of the plant would be required as early as next month. The new lease allows the operating owner of the facility – the Salt River Project – to defer any decommissioning activities until after the original 50-year lease period concludes, in December of 2019. This allows NGS and Kayenta Mine operations to continue in the near-term without interruption, and allows more time to find new ownership for NGS.
In March Breitbart News reported that NGS and the Kayenta Mine directly and indirectly provided 3,100 jobs and $180 million in annual income to workers and their families.
The lease agreements, royalties, and other payments are tied to the plant and mine account for approximately 20 percent of Navajo Nation annual general fund revenue, with the money used to fund schools, emergency services, infrastructure, and public parks.