Officials sign lease for new power plant project

Navajo Nation Council overwhelmingly approves project with a vote of 66-7

Photo by Chris Burnsides/DPA Public Relations
Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish Jr., left, Dirk Straussfeld, Vice-President Desert Rock Energy Company LLC, andNavajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. at the signing ceremony for the Desert Rock Energy Project on May 25.

Photo by Chris Burnsides/DPA Public Relations Navajo Nation Vice President Frank Dayish Jr., left, Dirk Straussfeld, Vice-President Desert Rock Energy Company LLC, andNavajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. at the signing ceremony for the Desert Rock Energy Project on May 25.

ST. MICHAELS -- Hailing it as a victory for Navajos, leaders of the Navajo Nation, officials of the Dine' Power Authority (DPA), and Desert Rock Energy Company, LLC signed the Lease and Sublease Agreement for the new $2.5 billion Desert Rock power plant in a ceremony May 25 at the Navajo Division of Economic Development in St. Michaels. The project, approved by the Navajo Nation Council on May 12 by a vote of 66-7, is the largest economic development project ever undertaken by the Navajo Nation and will generate more than $50 million yearly for the Nation's budget.

The Desert Rock project is a 1,500-megawatt, technologically advanced coal-fired power plant with some of the most stringent air emission controls in the United States. Desert Rock will create more than 400 permanent jobs (plant plus expansion of coal mine), thousands of construction jobs and more than $2.5 billion in revenues for the Navajo Nation over the life of the Plant. Dine' Power Authority, an enterprise of the Navajo Nation, and the Desert Rock Energy Company, are developing the project.

A strong advocate for the project, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley said about Desert Rock: "Simply put, this project will address one of the most important economic development, environmental and energy challenges facing the Navajo Nation. I fully support this worthwhile endeavor and am pleased to sign this lease on behalf of the Navajo people."

According to Vice President Frank Dayish Jr., "The Desert Rock Power Plant makes good business sense for the Navajo Nation. We have gained traction on this initiative through two energy summits, institutionalizing monthly tri-organizational meetings between the private power industries surrounding the Navajo Nation and through close coordination with the Navajo Nation Council and communities members. This initiative is an integral part of our economic stimulus package to bring new revenue streams, training through Navajo Nation educational institutions, employment and much-needed infrastructure to the people of the Navajo Nation. Plans include Navajo Nation ownership in the plant to be managed by qualified Navajo professionals."

"Desert Rock lets Navajo people participate in the regional energy market with significant ownership opportunities," said Steven C. Begay, General Manager of DPA. "Today is a great day for economic development for the Nation, for our environment and for our energy future. DPA's energy projects create a new model of doing business with the Navajo Nation."

"Today's ceremony is another positive step for the people of the Navajo Nation. We are pleased Navajo Nation leaders have worked so hard to develop a fair and competitive plan that will provide a continual stream of revenue for the Navajo Nation, and good-paying jobs for the Navajo people," said Dirk Straussfeld, executive Vice President of Desert Rock Energy Company. "Our special thanks goes out to the leadership of the Navajo Nation -- President Shirley, Vice- President Dayish, Speaker Morgan, Council delegates, and all the other leaders who worked in an open and collaborative way to move the project to this stage. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the DinZ Power Authority and the Navajo Nation."

The Lease and Sublease Agreement defines how the 590-acre site, in the Nenanhazad area just south of Shiprock, will operate on the site for the next 50 years with an opportunity for an extension of 25 years. The agreement sets in place rent and tax payments due to the Navajo Nation, construction outline, and eventual decommissioning plans of the facility and reservation of costs necessary to decommissioning. Now that the Lease Agreement has been executed,--the project can--move forward with key development activities, including completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process anticipated this fall. The EIS will mark another important milestone, illustrating the commitment to develop the Project in an environmentally and culturally sensitive manner. It also will allow participation in requests for--new electric generation that have been issued by regional utility companies, engage the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor, and--establish local offices--to support plant construction.

(Source Dine Power Authority press release, dated May 25.)

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