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Partnership could lead to solar, renewable energy projects on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez spoke in favor of a feasibility study to form a partnership between the Navajo Nation and the City of Los Angeles to create solar and renewable energy projects on the Navajo reservation. Nez talked to the Los Angeles City Council on Feb. 19, 2020 in Los Angeles.

FARMINGTON — The Los Angeles City Council approved a feasibility study to examine a partnership with the Navajo Nation for solar and renewable energy projects.

The motion passed on Feb. 19 and instructs the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to examine the proposal and report results to the City Council in 30 days.

The City Council also instructed the LADWP to meet with representatives from the tribe to explore the viability of carrying out such projects on tribal land.

"The demand for clean energy throughout the country is there and mandated by our people, our citizens and it's no different on the Navajo Nation," tribal President Jonathan Nez said in a presentation to the city council.

The tribe's relationship with Los Angeles goes back to when the LADWP was an owner of the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant located on tribal land in northeast Arizona.

LADWP divested from the power plant when it sold its 21 percent share in July 2016, as part of the city's goal to end dependence on energy generated by coal.

In April, the city adopted an updated energy and climate policy that has the aim of being 100 percent carbon free by 2050.

"As the city of Los Angeles takes a leadership role in renewable energy, we can lift other partners along with us," City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said at the meeting.

O'Farrell introduced the motion that initiated the study on Dec. 11, noting the city powered its growth by using coal resources mined on the Navajo Nation for more than 40 years.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was part of a delegation from the tribe to attend a Los Angeles City Council meeting on Feb. 19, 2020, to support a feasibility study to examine a partnership between the tribe and the city for solar and renewable energy projects.

By entering a new partnership, the city can obtain cost-effective clean energy while ensuring environmental justice and economic equity to tribal members, the motion states.

The shutdown of the Navajo Generating Station in November, combined with the closure of its coal supplier – the Kayenta Mine, has caused the tribe to lose between $30 million to $50 million in revenue.

To ease the loss, the tribe is looking toward renewable energy, Nez said while standing alongside a delegation that included Division of Natural Resources Executive Director Rudy Shebala.

"This is a win-win for everyone," Nez said.

He added the tribe has built a 55-megawatt solar power plant, referring to the facility operated by the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority near Kayenta, Arizona.

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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