Evaluation continues for Navajo Generating Station, Kayenta Mine acquisition

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Wilson Stewart Jr. comments about a report by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company's work to possibly acquire the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine during a Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee work session on Wednesday in Window Rock, Ariz.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Transitional Energy Company is continuing to evaluate and assess a possible acquisition of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine, company representatives said on Wednesday.

Representatives spent more than six hours in discussion with tribal council delegates in a work session for the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee in Window Rock, Ariz.

NTEC began its examination into the possible gain since owners of the power plant announced plans to cease operations by December.

Supporters view the possible acquisition as a way to save jobs and sustain revenue for the tribe.

Steve Grey, governmental and external affairs director for NTEC, said a 20-member negotiation team has been overseeing the possible acquisition since the company received a request late last year from former tribal president Russell Begaye and former Speaker LoRenzo Bates.

From left, Bernard Masters, legal counsel for the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, and Steve Grey, governmental and external affairs director for NTEC, gave an update on Wednesday about the company's possible action to acquire the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine.

Grey said a due diligence remains under development and work continues to meet federal requirements before the transaction closes, which is planned for either September or October.

MORE:Navajo Nation evaluating possible power plant, coal mine purchase

"It's a pretty aggressive process," Grey said.

Bernard Masters, general counsel for NTEC, said there is no purchase price because NTEC will acquire the power plant by assuming all current and future liabilities, including the eventual decommissioning.

"We are not paying to acquire these assets. There is not a purchase price nor are we going to the nation to ask them to fund a purchase price in order to acquire those assets," Masters said.

However, there is a demand from the participants to have the tribe guarantee the power plant participants for all potential NTEC obligations in the event of a sale, representatives said.

Navajo Transitional Energy Company representatives gave an update about the pending Navajo Generating Station and Kayenta Mine acquisition to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee on Wednesday at the council chamber in Window Rock, Ariz.

NTEC does not support this demand, Masters said.

MORE:Navajo Council delegates forward priorities for NM lawmakers

Other benefits touted by the representatives included the elimination of unnecessary overhead because the coal mine and power plant will be operated by one company, and the sale of power at a lower price because NTEC is exempt from paying federal and state income taxes.

Delegate Daniel E. Tso was among those who requested to hear from other parties, including residents, who are impacted by the mine and power plant operations.

He also zeroed in on NTEC's efforts to garner support for the acquisition from chapter governments by dispatching a public relations firm.

Delegates Nelson BeGaye and Raymond Smith Jr. added to Tso's concerns and said they were approached by chapter members to further explain the acquisition and information provided by the public relations firm.

For Smith, the request for NTEC and the tribe to assume current and future liabilities for NGS was troubling.

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Paul Begay listens to the discussion on Wednesday about a report by the Navajo Transitional Energy Company regarding the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine. Begay represents LeChee Chapter in Arizona, where NGS is located.

"That sounds like a lot. That sounds like putting the nation out there and making sure we uphold this. Do we have to go down that route?" he said.

Delegate Elmer Begay said the acquisition is placing a bandage on an industry that is dying because there is more reliance on green energy sources.

MORE:New solar farm in works near Kayenta, Ariz.

"How long will NGS remain profitable and operational? How long will it be since the world is going toward a green economy," Begay said.

Part of Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton's concern was the future care for miners as well as not hearing from the other side of the acquisition.

"You're showing us the rainbows and the unicorns and all the confetti that comes from it, but what is the true and the reality of that," Charles-Newton said.

The council will be tasked with making a tough decision, a decision based on tons and tons of coal, Delegate Rick Nez said.

In his remarks, he explained seeing his father, uncles and other family members working at Navajo Mine. As a former chapter official, he saw the benefits the mine and the Four Corners Power Plant provide the chapters he now represents.

"For me not to support, I don't think I can do that because of my background, where I come from," Nez said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.


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