Navajo lease deal on NM power plant criticized

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Farmington, New Mexico (AP) March 2011

A New Mexico state senator contends a proposed 25-year extension on a lease for Four Corners Power Plant is a poor deal for the Navajo Nation.

Sen. Lynda Lovejoy, D-Crownpoint, wrote a letter to Navajo President Ben Shelly saying the extension will mean “a meager annual payment of $7 million for 25 years.”

The lease awaits Shelly’s signature or veto. The Navajo Tribal Council approved it last week.

Arizona Public Service Company, the plant’s operator, has said it would shutter the aging coal-fired plant if the lease wasn’t approved.

The plant in northwestern New Mexico has been under increased scrutiny over emissions.

Lovejoy – who ran against Shelly last year for Navajo president – urged him in the Feb. 19 letter to evaluate the lease.

“Are you willing to veto this measure and return it to the council to ask, Is this the best you can do? Please bring forward a better deal,”’ she said.

Sherrick Roanhorse, chief of staff for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, declined to comment on Lovejoy’s letter.

He said Shelly will review the lease from different perspectives.

“He will weigh job development, the environment, public health and revenue creation,” Roanhorse said.

The current lease ends in 2016.

APS spokesman Damon Gross said approving the lease would benefit the Navajo Nation.

Lovejoy said lease payments should be tied to inflation or increased incrementally over time. She also criticized a waiver she said could limit the tribe’s ability to sue APS.

“To many of us, it’s another giveaway,” she said.