LECHEE – Members of Central Arizona Project’s board on Thursday voted to purchase a portion of its future electricity needs from two other sources regardless of a request by the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation that the agency wait 90 days while efforts are made to extend the life of the Navajo Generating Station.
DeEtte Person, spokesperson for CAP, told the Lake Powell Chronicle that the Central Arizona Water Conservation District voted on Thursday, June 7, to approve a five-year purchase power agreement with Salt River Project and a 20-year purchase power agreement with AZ Solar 1, which would provide power at $24.99 per megawatt-hour and a new 30-megawatt solar plant that would be constructed somewhere along the canal and sell power to CAP for 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
These two agreements represent about 14 percent of CAP’s power needs, according to Person, who added, “Should a new owner come forward for the Navajo Generating Station, they could certainly make a proposal to provide power for us.”
However, the vote was opposed by the tribes, which are pushing to keep the plant open after the plant’s five owners – Arizona Public Service, Bureau of Reclamation, NV Energy, SRP, and Tucson Electric Power – voted last year in February to close the plant because there are cheaper alternatives for making electricity. The Bureau of Reclamation though wanted to explore ways to keep it open.
Four months later, the Navajo Nation Council approved legislation that would permit the plant to remain open through 2019. The council voted 18-4 on the measure after eight hours of debate.
When the plant closes, the Kayenta Mine – located on Black Mesa, 75.7 miles away, where low-sulfur coal for the plant is mined – will die, and so will the lifeline for the Hopi Tribe, according to Ben Nuvamsa, former Hopi Chairman.
But the closure of the plant would have both environmental and economic ripple effects. The gross state product from NGS would total around $12.16 billion in the 33 years between 2011 and 2044. Combined with the economic impact from the Kayenta Mine over this same time period, there would be a $20 billion impact (about $700 million per year), according to the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University that did an impact study.
Kayenta Mine workers have protested at the state capitol on several occasions, which they did again last Wednesday and attended the CAP board meeting where they asked its members to put the vote on hold for three months and that time was needed for Middle River Power to put together a proposal to buy the plant.
“For several months now, we have heard passionate pleas of the Peabody coal miners,” CAP Board President Lisa Atkins said in a statement to the Chronicle. “We have heard from Hopi and Navajo leaders who express concern about the future of NGS.”
Atkins went on to say, “I want to be clear, CAP did not have a vote on closing NGS. CAP does not own NGS. CAP is not required by law to buy NGS power. At the same time, CAP is not at war with coal. CAP seeks a long-term, cost-effective, reliable and diverse power portfolio for the benefit of its water users.”