NTEC continues talks for stake in power plant

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — Officials with the Navajo Transitional Energy Co. are continuing to negotiate with the Arizona Public Service Co. to acquire a 7 percent interest in the Four Corners Power Plant.

The Four Corners Power Plant is seen recently in Fruitland.

Clark Moseley, CEO of NTEC, said the option to acquire the percentage in ownership is "still a valid option."

"We're under discussions with APS regarding the acquisition of that 7 percent ownership," Moseley said in an interview on Friday at the company's office here.

NTEC is an enterprise of the Navajo tribe. It owns the Navajo Mine, which is the sole supplier of coal to the power plant.

APS is the majority utility owner of the power plant, located on tribal land near Fruitland.

In December 2015, the board of directors for NTEC approved the acquisition, which had been a purchasing option as part of the coal sales agreement with APS, according to an NTEC release.

Moseley said he would not provide further information about the discussions associated with the purchase "because it's still active business negotiations with APS."

He declined to comment on the benefits that would development from the investment, as well as whether the power plant would be a sustainable resource in light of other energy-producing options entering the market.

APS acquired the 7 percent ownership through an affiliate, 4C Acquisition LLC, a subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital Corp. and the parent company of APS, after El Paso Electric sold the share last July.

El Paso Electric made the decision to divest as a cost-effective measure and because of concerns about the environmental impact of coal-produced energy.

Annie DeGraw, communications consultant with APS, said in an email this week APS was notified by NTEC that it is executing the option to acquire the 7 percent interest in the power plant. The notification APS received was in accordance with the provisions of the coal agreement, she wrote.

"Pursuant to that agreement, they have up to one year — July 2017 — to complete the acquisition," DeGraw wrote.

In the meantime, Moseley said the transition in the operator for the Navajo Mine continues to go smoothly.

Bisti Fuels Co. LLC, a subsidiary of the North American Coal Corp., took over operations of the mine from BHP Billiton on Jan. 1.

"The transition has gone very well," Moseley said.

He added that North American Coal has brought an inclusive culture to the operation, and the corporation values employee input and participation.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.