PHOENIX — Arizona Public Service is proposing a plan to offer $144 million to aid three coal country and Native American communities where the company will eventually close its remaining coal-run power plants.
The plan would increase investments in the Navajo Nation, Hopi tribe and Joseph City area while retaining workers, providing electricity to regions in Navajo that are off the power grid and developing renewable energy projects.
The plan would be a sizable investment in communities that have suffered economically as the country shifts its reliance on fossil fuels to more renewable energy, the Arizona Republic reported.
“We feel that sacrifices made by our people to provide Arizona cheap water and power deserve the full amount we requested in this proceeding, but this is nonetheless an important first step to establishing what corporate responsibility to communities looks like,” said Nicole Horseherder of the Native American group environmental group Tó Nizhóní Ání’s. “APS is just one of a number of utility owners and beneficiaries of Navajo coal and water. With the precedent that this agreement sets, it signals to the others that they too have a corporate responsibility to assist the people and communities that helped make the companies so profitable.”
Robyn Jackson of Diné CARE, another Native American environmental group, agreed.
“Navajo coal and water and the workers from our communities provided the power that made the success of cities like Phoenix and companies like APS possible. Now that coal plants are no longer economic, it’s only right for some of that prosperity to come back to us,” Jackson said. “We are on the verge of transforming our economy from coal to clean energy, and commitments like this will be critical to shaping our future.”
Arizona Public Service is the majority owner of the Four Corners Power Plant on Navajo land in northwest New Mexico that is scheduled to close by 2031. The plant employs 327 people today, with 80% of them Native American.
About 350 people work at the coal mine next to the plant, which is owned by a company the Navajo Nation created to buy the mine.
The Cholla Power Plant in Joseph City is scheduled to close by 2025 with one of the three remaining units closing this year. Jeff Guldner, CEO of Arizona Public Service and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp, said the Arizona Public Service are trying to prevent layoffs with that closure. Cholla employs roughly 200 people and is not on tribal land.