Photo highlights: Begaye, Nez sign extension lease for Navajo Generating Station

Navajo General Counsel Karis Begaye, Department Manager of Water Management Branch Jason John, Executive Director for Navajo Division of General Services Joelynn Ashley, Executive Director of Navajo Division of Natural Resources Bidtah Becker, Vice President Jonathan Nez, President Russell Begaye, Coconino County Supervisor for District 5 Lena Fowler, Attorney for Navajo Department of Justice April Quinn, Coconino County Supervisor for District 4 Jim Parks. Submitted photo

Navajo General Counsel Karis Begaye, Department Manager of Water Management Branch Jason John, Executive Director for Navajo Division of General Services Joelynn Ashley, Executive Director of Navajo Division of Natural Resources Bidtah Becker, Vice President Jonathan Nez, President Russell Begaye, Coconino County Supervisor for District 5 Lena Fowler, Attorney for Navajo Department of Justice April Quinn, Coconino County Supervisor for District 4 Jim Parks. Submitted photo

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President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez sign the NGS Extension Lease Jul. 1, at the Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort. Submitted photo

TWIN ARROWS, Ariz. — On July 1, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez signed the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) extension lease securing Navajo rights to water infrastructure, railroad lines and rights to transmission lines.

“Today, as we sign this extension lease, the Navajo Nation will become an energy tribe for the first time in its history,” Begaye said. “We will now have the capability of producing renewable energy and selling it to the world market.”

The extension lease affords the Navajo Nation the use of a significant portion of NGS's transmission rights, currently allocated to the U.S., for at least 35 years. Transmission access allows the Navajo Nation to sell energy it produces while returning revenues back to the Nation.

“It’s a win for the Navajo Nation and we’re thankful for the hard work that was put forth by the negotiation team,” Nez said. “We’re also thankful to the Navajo Nation Council for assisting the negotiation team in laying the foundation for this extension lease.”

The president and vice president thanked the council for its effort in proposing and refining amendments to the agreement.

Among the amendments, the council introduced language clarifying the amount of water that NGS owners can use during the retirement period of the plant; introduced language assuring that nothing in the document waives the Nation's claims to water from the Upper Colorado River Basin and added language that helps guide how the owners and the Navajo Nation will seek to resolve potential disputes in the future.

“This was a great partnership with the three branches of government,” Nez said.

Begaye thanked the negotiation team and assembled task forces for standing their ground in moving beyond the terms initially put forth in the agreement.

“The owners threatened to walk several times but our team stood their ground,” he said. “Even after council approved the lease, we still had negotiations to do.”

Regarding decommissioning the power plant, the extension lease provides framework for decommissioning activities at the NGS site. The extension lease establishes a consultation team made up of employees of Salt River Project (SRP) and the Navajo Nation to implement the decommissioning of the plant.

“Ensuring that the dismantling and decommissioning of the plant was done in the correct way was a top priority,” Begaye said. “This signing is also about closing the power plant and making sure the Navajo Nation is not taken advantage of in the decommissioning process.”

The Nation has secured transmission rights to develop a 500 MW transmission line with western access going toward the California and Nevada markets and southern access going toward the Phoenix and Tucson markets. According to the president, access to these transmission lines positions the Nation to move towards a cleaner economy.

“We can now go into solar and renewable energy development to sell energy directly to markets, towns and enterprises,” Begaye said. “The Nation has 500 megawatts to develop and we are already getting commitments from power companies who want to partner in buying renewable energy from the Navajo Nation.”

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