Leaders Seek to Revitalize Navajo and Hopi Economies with Alternative Energy Options | Navajo-Hopi Observer
WASHINGTON – With the closure of the Navajo coal-fired power plant in 2019, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe began to research alternative energy options to replace lost income and jobs on reserves.
On September 14, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Hopi President Tim Nuvangyaoma were among the keynote speakers at a zoom conference with the Interagency Coal and Power Plant Communities Working Group and economic revitalization (IWG).
The virtual event has been specially designed to support the economies of the energy communities of the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe and to open a constructive dialogue on potential development projects. There was a strong emphasis on how to apply for federal funding, such as engaging the EDA coal communities.
The session also focused on recently announced federal funding of $ 300 million as part of the EDA Coal Communities Commitment.
Alternative energy options include, but are not limited to, solar power, which has already been established on the Navajo Nation.
Besides renewable energy, Nez the Navajo Nation also needs funding to boost communities and tourism.
“We didn’t have a lot of choice with the mine closure,” Nez said. “We want to heal the land, but we also want to provide energy to the Aboriginals.
To do this, Nez said it will take to move away from fossil fuels and turn to renewables.
Nuvangyaoma said the Hopi tribe faces unique challenges and could use funds to revitalize their economy.
“We are at the forefront of the energy battle. As President Nez said, we didn’t really have a choice, ”he said.
Brian Anderson, Ph.D. executive director of the IWG, said in a press release that it was wonderful to meet with Nuvangyaoma and Nez to discuss how the IWG can support tribal communities.
“The IWG looks forward to working more closely with the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, as well as other tribes across the country, to support their hard-working energy workers and communities as the country undergoes the biggest energy transition in a century, “he said. .
Among those present at the meeting were representatives of the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA), United States Department of Energy, United States Department of Interior, United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Office of recovery and enforcement of surface mines, the US Bureau of Land Management and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Wahleah Johns, of the Office of Indian Energy at the US Department of Energy, said the DOE is committed to energy, equity and community revitalization.
Johns, who lives about two miles from the old coal mine, said it was a milestone for those affected by the closure.
“I saw the jobs lost and the environmental impact,” she said.
During the presentation, federal officials informed the tribes of the funds available for their communities. These funds are accessible through an application process and are distributed to various organizations based on their proposals. The IWG and representatives from various agencies said they were available to help the tribes navigate this financial maze process.
According to Nez, when Peabody Energy shut down the Navajo Power Plant, the Navajo and Hopi tribes lost nearly a thousand jobs that brought in $ 128 million a year with an average salary of $ 99,100.
Nez said the Navajo Nation’s number one resource is its workforce.
“We have strong and dedicated people,” he said.
Currently, alternative energy projects are underway in Cameron, Arizona and New Mexico and according to Nez, the nation has 27,000 square miles of land and $ 300 million available for renewable energy projects.
“It would be a nice kick in the arm, so we are looking forward to developing our package,” he said. “We look forward to working with the Department of Energy.
Brian Urban, host of the Zoom conference, said the IWG needs to know each community’s vision, but added that the workforce is a high priority.
Access challenges for Hopi
The Hopi tribe is a smaller reserve, with 2,500 square miles spread over 12 villages, according to Nuvangyaoma, who said the only valuable resource on Hopi is coal.
He recounted how coal was mined at the Kayenta Coal Mine and said it provided cheap electricity until it closed in 2016 when natural gas became much cheaper.
According to Nuvangyaoma, the Trump administration promised access to power transmission lines and equal treatment, but both of those promises were broken.
“We need economic aid for the transmission lines,” he said.
Nuvangyaoma said the Hopi Reservation is the only reservation in America that is landlocked by another reservation – as it is surrounded by the Navajo Nation.
He said the Navajo tribe has applied for funding for their right of way.
“The federal government could help by connecting us to transmission lines,” he said. “We need help with the technical work and the marketing of energy. We can build dependent energy for Hopi and build our economy. “
U.S. Representative Tom O’Halleran, who represents the two tribes in the First Congressional District, said the Navajo Power Plant was a powerhouse that left too many people with no options when it closed.
He said he was working on several bills that could help bring funds to the Navajo, Hopi and other reserves as well as neighboring communities such as Page.
“It is essential for the survival of families and the needs of the Navajo and Hopi tribes,” he said.
According to Johns, this is the first step in the process and the working groups will follow by sending out announcements and posting information on their website.