APS to offer $144M to Navajo Nation communities after coal plant closures


Arizona Public Service (APS) is proposing to offer $144 million to help three coal and tribal communities after closing its remaining coal-burning power plants.

Reasons for the plan

APS plan looks to provide large investments to the Navajo Nation, retain workers, electrify regions, and develop renewable energy projects in the area.

According to APS CEO Jeff Guldner and consulted by The Arizona Republic, since the 1960s, the communities in the Navajo Nation have provided the power that fueled Arizona’s growth.

In that regard, the plan intends to promote massive investment in the region since it has been severely affected by the energy transition from fossil fuels to newer and cleaner technologies.

The CEO added that while coal plants are being shuttered across the country, larger utilities should take responsibility for helping the most affected communities. Companies can provide job, income, and tax revenue opportunities for the region’s workers and consumers.

Affected coal plants

The Four Corners Coal Power Plant, near Farmington, New Mexico, is scheduled to close by 2031. APS is the majority owner of the plant, employing currently 327 people, 80% of them Native American.  

In an adjacent coal mine, a property of the Navajo Transitional Energy Co., APS has 350 more workers. For generations, mining families have settled there.

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Another affected plant is the Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City, which currently employs around 200 people. This unit expects to close by 2025, with one of its remaining facilities, owned by Pacificorp, closing this year. APS declared they would try to get through this closure without losing any of its workers.

Guldner acknowledged that there could be challenges to developing new industry on the reservation.

APS Just Energy Transition plan

Last Friday, APS filed the Just Energy Transition plan for the Navajo Nation with the Arizona Corporation Commission.

It includes $100 million to be paid over the next ten years, a plan to build no-cost power lines into Navajo Land, $10M to be paid over a decade for home and business electrification projects, $2.5 to be paid annually for the plant retirement, $1.25M in shareholder dollar over the next five years for development projects, among other actions.

APS also proposes to relocate all of its workers at the Cholla and Four Corners plants at least six months before the closures.

The company is even asking regulators to approve new economic support for the communities around the plants, severely affected by the Navajo Generating Station’s closure this year.

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