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A path for our economic future,

rooted in traditional DINÉ VALUES.

Corporate responsibility for transition assistance

  • The Navajo Nation needs to seek transition assistance similar to packages from coal plant closures in other parts of the west, which include funding and technical assistance for impacted communities and their workers.
  • Congressman Tom O’Halleran’s transition legislation — currently under consideration by the U.S. Congress — can provide economic development resources to communities affected by the closure of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and the Kayenta Mine and establish job and skills training programs for displaced employees.
  • Community groups have participated in processes at the Arizona Corporation Commission seeking utilities to be required to provide transition assistance. Our coalition partners are engaging in the current Tucson Electric Power rate case urging funding assistance to support a Just Transition for tribal communities.
  • Peabody needs to be held accountable by the Navajo government to ensure that clean up and reclamation of polluted lands, along with restoration of the N-Aquifer, and workers are all taken care of. This is of particular importance given Peabody’s troubling history with cheating communities.

#1: Diné Fundamental Law and virtues infuse our nation’s policies and choices

The healing of our people and lands is necessary for a Just Transition that is in line with Diné Fundamental Law.

Healing after decades of devastation

Navajo communities have borne the brunt of fossil fuel extraction and unsustainable corporate practices that have resulted in the devastation and pollution of our Diné homeland, including the habitats of our plant and animal relatives, and our precious natural resources.

A sacred obligation

The healing of our people and lands is necessary for a Just Transition that is in line with Diné Fundamental Law. Natural Law under the Diné Fundamental Laws, codified by the Navajo Nation Council in 2002, reminds us that, “The Diné have a sacred obligation and duty to respect, preserve, and protect all that was provided, for we were designated as the steward of these relatives.”

Restoring our values

“All creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky to the animals, those who live in water, those who fly, and plant life, have their own laws, and have rights and freedom to exist.”

The extraction and burning of coal has exposed our families and our plant and animal relatives to toxic pollution and habitat destruction, and has been in direct conflict with the Navajo Nation’s own Fundamental Law. It is time to return to Diné traditional law, to be in harmony with the world, and prioritize energy policies that are line with our values and virtues.

#2: Water is for people, not outside corporate profit.

In the coal era, our water vanished

Decades of coal strip-mining on Black Mesa depleted the N-Aquifer many times faster than its ability to recharge. Navajo Generating Station used tens of thousands of acre-feet of water from the Colorado for power that flowed over our communities’ heads to faraway cities. Many Navajo families remained without running water.

We can begin to right the longstanding wrongs on water

With the closing of Kayenta Mine and Navajo Generating Station, we can begin to right the longstanding wrongs on water. The 50,000 acre-feet of Upper Basin Colorado water for NGS must return to Navajo people. Peabody and the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement must see to the full reclamation of the N-Aquifer.

Actions Needed

Repurposing the water currently used for NGS presents an extraordinary opportunity for the Nation to develop water projects to meet community needs and to help reinvent the tribe’s economy. There are some critical steps that need to be taken:

  • Because any Upper Basin water will almost surely be moved through Lake Powell, it may be necessary to obtain a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the use of federal water facilities.
  • Although the Navajo Nation has rights to the Upper Basin water, to actually put the water to use, it must apply to the Arizona Department of Water Resources for water rights certificate(s). Water use certificates are not granted for abstract general purposes, only for actual projects.
  • To make the most of its valuable water rights, the Navajo Nation will need to develop a plan for projects that will put the water to actual use.
  • The Navajo Nation should begin developing plans for water projects now, since SRP has committed to using no more than 1,500 acre-feet per year post-closure and must terminate the contracts for the majority of the remainder.
  • In addition to its specific rights to the quantified water currently allocated to NGS, the Navajo Nation has additional, unresolved water rights that predate the Colorado River Compact.

The Tribal water rights, or Federal Reserved rights, could represent a much larger volume of water, but they have not been quantified. Quantifying those water rights would require a broader settlement with other states in the Colorado River Basin, as well as Congressional approval.

#3: Projects benefit local communities, and are guided by community voices

As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, there is incredible opportunity for the Navajo Nation in clean energy.

The coal era was inequitable

In the coal era, this extractive industry not only decimated land and water and health, but the economic benefits were not broadly or justly shared.

Power lines built over the communities on Navajo land took electricity to cities across the Southwest, while thousands in the Navajo Nation remained with no electricity access. Until relatively recently, the Navajo Nation was grossly underpaid in the lease of land to NGS owners, by tens of millions of dollars a year for decades. Peabody executives who took care of themselves handsomely through bankruptcy still have done virtually nothing for workers as the coal markets have withered and Kayenta has closed.

A new opportunity in clean energy

As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, there is incredible opportunity for the Navajo Nation in clean energy — attention and energy must shift to a new era of development done with attention to the voice of local communities informing plans and accountability. After decades of profiting from the use of Navajo natural resources, federal and state government agencies, NGS owners and Peabody Energy all have a responsibility to support the Navajo Nation in the restructuring of its economy.

    Actions Needed

    • President Nez’s Háyoolkáál Sunshine Proclamation outlines support for the development of clean energy on the Nation as a way to diversify the economy.
    • However, the Navajo Nation government needs to develop a clear, efficient process for developers to follow to be able to build projects on Navajo land or Navajo owned land that assure benefits to local communities.
    • Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has completed development of two solar projects totaling 55 MW. Kayenta I & II are 100% Navajo owned. The power is sold to local residents with some going to Salt River Project.
    • The City of Page is working on an economic transition for its city that includes tourism that could support increased tourism on the Navajo Nation.


    Photo credits:
    Navajo Hogan: Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
    Little Colorado River: Al_HikesAZ via Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0
    Solar Project: Navajo Tribal Utility Authority