Utility regulators in Arizona are considering a proposal to distribute $144.5 million to predominantly Native American communities affected by the closure of coal-fired power plants in a case that could have national implications for fossil fuel-dependent regions.
The Arizona Corporation Commission kicked off a three-day hearing this week on a utility rate case that includes a proposed payment plan for communities that are reliant on tax revenue and jobs from the coal industry. Under the plan, electric utility Arizona Public Service would allocate the funds to the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and Navajo County, all of which have hosted major coal generating stations for the Western grid, over the next 10 years.
The plan constitutes the largest payment proposal put forth by a utility company nationally for transitioning fossil fuel communities, said Eric Frankowski, executive director of the Western Clean Energy Campaign. It stems from an agreement reached between the utility and the Navajo Nation last year in which APS would designate $128.75 million to the Navajo Nation, $3.7 million to the Hopi Tribe, and $12 million to Navajo County communities near the Cholla Power Plant in northern Arizona.
Broadly speaking, the money would be used to spur new economic development opportunities, and APS has separately agreed to help electrify homes and businesses in the Navajo Nation and seek out proposal for new renewable energy projects in the region.