O’Halleran visits Page, introduces new legislation, tours NGS site

Photo by Bob Hembree/Lake Powell Chronicle Left to right: O’Halleran’s Director of Tribal Engagement Jack Jackson Jr., Congressman Tom O’Halleran; Hopi Chairman Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma; Mayor Bill Diak, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez pose for a group photo inside the Council Chambers on March 29.

PAGE – Congressman Tom O’Halleran visited Page Monday afternoon.

O’Halleran’s first stop was at Lake Powell Medical Center to learn about the town’s needs and to discuss what he could do to help out. While there, Canyonlands Healthcare CEO CJ Hansen took O’Halleran for a tour of the facilities and introduced him to staff in different departments.

O’Halleran’s next stop was at Page City Hall, where O’Halleran introduced the NEW PROMISE Act before a small group of regional leaders, including Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Hopi Chairman Timothy L. Nuvangyaoma, and Page Mayor Bill Diak.

O’Halleran ended his visit with a stop at the Navajo Generating Station, where he and Nez toured the current decommissioning process.

O’Halleran introduced the National Energy Workforce and Providing Recovery Opportunities to Manage the Industry’s Shifting Economics Act, or the NEW PROMISE Act.

The New Promise Act is an updated version of O’Halleran’s 116th Congress PROMISE Act that could provide economic development resources to communities affected by the closure of NGS – and generating stations like it across the U.S. – establish job and skills training programs for displaced employees and invest in cities, towns and tribal communities that have suffered economic downturn.

O’Halleran said NGS was a powerhouse for northern Arizona and for the Navajo and Hopi nations that relied on the high-paying jobs it provided.

“With the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism has plummeted, especially from the international visitors the Page community was so used to welcoming,” O’Halleran said. “In introducing my updated NEW PROMISE Act, I am taking into account the concerns of tribal leadership, county, local and statewide stakeholders to provide an all-of-the above recovery approach for the community of Page and so many communities like it across America where hardworking folks are out of a job (because) of no fault of their own.”

 

The NEW PROMISE Act

The NEW PROMISE ACT will direct the secretary of labor and the director of the White House Council to establish a 10-year pilot program to provide education and training opportunities to dislocated workers from the downturn of coal fired power plants to enter jobs in emerging energy related industries.

The Act will establish a mitigation fund to recoup revenue losses incurred following the closure of a coal fired generating station in an economically distressed community; create within the White House a “Council on Energy Transitions” responsible for reporting data on plant closures and their effects, conducting outreach to impacted communities and maintaining a team of grant specialists; form regional transition advisory committees comprised of local government, labor, utility, environmental, academic and economic experts to work with distressed communities and develop targeted recovery plans.

The Act will also put in place a requirement for electric utilities to notify potential impacted local governments of the projected date of seasonal operations or closure of plant; and allocate $50 million annually for economic development planning to distressed communities over 14 years, totaling $700 million; $50 million annually for infrastructure investments in distressed communities over five years, totaling $250 million; $100 million in displaced worker training support over 10 years and $250 million in support for lost revenues to impacted communities which phases down annually over seven years for a total of $1.35 billion in support to coal communities as a whole.

Nez said the closure of NGS impacted many Navajo (Diné) families and changed the economic outlook for Page-Lake Powell as well as the Navajo and the Hopi nations.

“We look forward to working with Congress and (the Biden) administration on providing a future for our Navajo Nation and our workers as we transition our economy and help our workers succeed,” Nez said.

Nuvangyaoma added that the NEW PROMISE Act will provide financial assistance to help the Hopi Tribe and the surrounding communities transition away from the reliance on coal. Diak said the Act would give the City of Page an opportunity to transition to a new economy.

“Once that includes better opportunity for our residents, a chance for retraining for those affected by the closure, potential grants to improve our quality of life, help with economic development plans and programs to help with workforce innovation,” Diak said to O’Halleran. “The mayor and city council do want to thank you personally for your commitment and concern that you have shown the residents of Page.”

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