Letter to the editor: NTEC acquisistion of coal mines in Montana is good for the people of the Navajo Nation
To the editor:
Since NTEC announced the acquisition of three coal mines in the Powder River Basin, there has been a lot of opinions appearing in the Navajo Times. Unfortunately, many of the opinions have been grossly inaccurate, misleading and inflammatory, especially towards the NTEC management team. I take issue with the recent guest column from the IEEFA (Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis) who have pushed the boundaries of common decency and exemplify the quote, “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
To this Navajo, IEEFA comes across as modern-day colonizers, bullies trying to scare Navajos into their line of thought. Let’s look at their recent handiwork in disrupting the lives of hundreds of Navajos. Last week, there were many news reports of NGS finally closing, also affected by the closure is the Kayenta Mine. Both facilities employed over 750 workers, nearly all Navajo, now those workers either have lost their jobs or had to relocate away from their families. In case you have forgotten, IEEFA was one of the groups that were instrumental in feeding our Navajo leaders misleading information that leading to a vote in Tribal Council against the purchase of NGS and Kayenta Mine. The economic impact to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe will be billions of dollars for years to come.
Now IEEFA is spreading falsehoods about NTEC’s purchase of three mines in Wyoming and Montana. Before I start exposing them for the frauds they are, let’s get in some facts about NTEC.
NTEC was formed in 2013, under the laws of the Navajo Nation. Since its foundation, NTEC has become one of the most profitable miners in the country and has been awarded numerous safety and reclamation awards. NTEC is wholly owned by the Nation and is overseen by a professional board of seven members, six of whom are Navajo. It is important to note that NTEC was established to be independent from the Nation with the right and ability to acquire assets on and off the Navajo reservation.
NTEC currently supports over 350 salaried and hourly employees at the Navajo Mine, with a total approximate payroll of $40 million, nearly 85 percent of whom are Native American and mostly Navajo. By acquiring the Navajo Mine, NTEC preserved the adjacent Four Corners Power Plant (which is fueled exclusively by the mine) and 300 jobs. Again, a majority are Native American workers. Since purchasing the Navajo Mine, NTEC has taken a 7 percent ownership interest in the Four Corners Power Plant and is successfully selling power into the regional market.
By the way, since the NTEC management team took over the Navajo Mine and returned it to profitability, the total payments to the Navajo Nation is well over $200 million. I’m curious, how many Navajo jobs or revenue to the Navajo People has IEEFA provided? The answer is ZERO, yet we already stated that this group will already cost the Nation and the region billions of dollars for future generations.
Now let’s get back to the fallacy that NTEC purchased the Cloud Peak Energy assets in violation of Navajo Nation energy development policy. While there has been talk of changing the policy to reflect more renewable energy development, I refer the reader to the front-page story in the October 24, 2019 edition of the Navajo Times, “Council kills renewable energy bill.” It’s simple, NTEC can’t violate a policy that doesn’t exist. Again, IEEFA is entitled to their opinion as misguided as it is, but they are not entitled to their own facts!
The bottom line, since IEEFA is concerned about NTEC’s finances, is that the newly acquired mines in the Powder River Basin are profitable. The previous owner was hampered with debt related to their larger operations and unsuccessful acquisitions. NTEC purchased the mines at a very low cost while avoiding the debt that hampered the former owner. NTEC will not put the Navajo Nation or our people in financial danger.