Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Nov. 12

Diné Power Authority official testifies before U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Navajo Nation has drawn Congressional attention for its transmission project, proposed coal-fired plant and a huge windmill project.

Steve Begay, general manager for Diné Power Authority (DPA), testified recently before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs about the three projects.

Begay told the Senate Committee that DPA is the Navajo Nation entity responsible for utility-scale power generation and transmission development on Navajo lands.

The Senate Committee hosted the hearing to hear from tribes focusing on Title V of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and how the act is being implemented.

Begay used the forum to list the various projects and update the committee on the needs for more energy development on reservations. The Navajo Nation was one of four tribes represented during the hearing.

Begay said DPA's first major project is the Navajo transmission project. This project calls for a 469-mile high-voltage transmission line connecting to the Four Corners Region of the desert southwest.

"This permitted project is the only high-voltage system of its size and length that is ready for construction in the U.S. today," he testified.

Begay told the committee that DPA's second major project, called the Desert Rock Energy Project, is a $3.4 billion coal-fired power plant that would generate up to 1,500 megawatts.

"Desert Rock would have the lowest regulated emissions of any pulverized coal-fired power plant in the United States," he said.

Begay emphasized the revenue that the proposed energy plant would bring to the Navajo Nation. He said at $50 million per year for the first year of operation that Desert Rock would generate an estimated $1.5 billion to the Navajo treasury in the first 30 years if it continued to bring in at least that much from the project each year.

During the hearing, Begay noted that there has been a delay in the issuing of air quality permits for Desert Rock. He said this is an obstacle the Navajo Nation is encountering with a federal agency. The permit is pending review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Begay said the third major project is the Diné Wind Project, which would be one of the largest wind generation systems in America today.

"In 2006, DPA began a joint venture with Citizens Energy Corp. because of their strong commitment to working with Native communities," he said.

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, an Arkansas Republican, thanked Begay for testifying.

"I want to commend the Navajo Nation for pursuing the Diné Wind farm project," she said.

The Senate Committee staff plans on traveling to various tribes to hold roundtable discussions on energy development to see what obstacles the tribes face.

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