A coal-fired power plant in Arizona will most likely be taken offline and close completely at the end of the year after the Navajo Nation voted against the acquisition of the plant.
In an 11-9 vote, the Navajo Nation Council committee decided to stop pursuing the acquisition, which was in the works since the 2017 announcement from the Salt River Project was made regarding the plant’s closure due to economic pressure.
According to Indian Country Today, many “Navajo leaders asked the Navajo Transitional Energy Company to explore acquiring the power plant and a Kayenta coal mine as a way to save the revenue and hundreds of jobs.”
The acquisition would require “a cap on the liability for cleanup” by the current power plant’s owners, which could cost upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars, while coal-powered electricity is becoming increasingly more expensive to sell to utility companies, Indian Country Today reported.
But last week, after several town hall meetings, the Navajo Nation Council ceased all efforts to acquire the plant and said it will instead “advance new and innovative development initiatives that place our people’s ability to live in our traditional homelands first.”
In a press release, Seth Damon, Navajo Nation Council speaker, said:
“For close to 100 years, the Navajo Nation has been a strong traditional energy producer. In that time, government revenue from energy production has supported the nation in becoming the strongest and most robust tribal government in the United States, propelling our people in endeavors our forbearers would have never imagined,”
The “Navajo Nation Council signaled that it is time for change. In order to develop a healthy and diverse economy that does not overly rely on any particular industry, the 24th Navajo Nation Council will advance new and innovative development initiatives that place our people’s ability to live in our traditional homelands first. Expanding tourism, alternative energy development, carbon credits, and manufacturing are all ideas that this council is pursuing to ensure that a healthy government can continue to provide for its people.”
The Salt River Projects “will begin awarding contracts for the plant’s decommissioning and for cleanup projects,” Indian Country Today reported. And with lower natural gas prices and increasingly cheaper wind and solar energy, the same economic hardships might soon affect other power plants as the West makes an economic transition from coal.