Navajo Nation Approves Coal Power Plant Lease

May 2, 2013

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The president of the Navajo Nation signed a lease extension with a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona that’s worth $1.2 billion to the tribe over the next three decades. But the plant owners aren’t too happy with some of the tribe’s conditions.

The approval of the lease renewal and legislation comes after weeks of council debate and more than a dozen amendments. The tribe wants the Navajo Generating Station to increase their yearly payments from $3 million to $43 million. It also wants the power plant to control fly ash.

But the tallest order has to do with water. The Salt River Project uses water from Arizona’s allocation of the Colorado River to operate the plant. The Navajo Nation wants plant owners to promise that they won’t oppose any claim the tribe would make to that water.

Erny Zah is spokesman for the Navajo president’s office. Zah says if you look at the original lease, the utility doesn’t have to comply with the tribe’s amendments.

"We’re really in a Catch 22 situation," Zah said. "SRP and the owners didn’t have to seek out Navajo Nation approval. Now if they didn’t we can only speculate as to the climate that would’ve created."

An SRP spokesman says it’s concerned about how much water the tribe might claim and its impact on the generating station’s operations.

The power plant also has to resolve issues with the Environmental Protection Agency.

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