Tony Skrelunas leads Navajo and Hopi community transition strategy around large-scale renewable energy projects and is a former director of economic development for the Navajo Nation.
A prudent five-year transition strategy must support Navajo and Hopi entrepreneurs and must develop the regional business community across four opportunity areas.
Beyond initiatives to mobilize entrepreneurs and the supporting workforce, serious need exists for investment in the form of grants and low-interest financing.
Navajo-Hopi Transition Impact Investment Fund capitalization sources would include the former and current owners of the mine and plant, the federal government, foundations, impact investors, opportunity-zone investors, possibly Navajo and Hopi government business development programs, and Treasury Department certified community development finance institution (CDFI) investors
Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and Kayenta Mines have provided about 800 jobs and roughly $40 million in revenue to the Hopi and Navajo Tribes. Due to competition from cheaper natural gas prices, falling prices across the renewables sector NGS owners have started the decommissioning process with an eye toward closing the plant in December. Until recently, much of the tribal focus regarding NGS has been on finding a way to keep plant and mine operations going.
With the decision made now to close NGS and Kayenta mine, tribal policy must shift quickly to sensible immediate opportunities that will help ensure that the Hopi and Navajo tribes are in a position to develop solutions that will minimize impacts to their economies. Cleanup work at NGS and Kayenta will take at least five years to complete, by federal government estimates, activity that can create a viable bridge toward a more diversified regional economic base. Additional solutions are immediately needed, however.
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