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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.

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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