NAU collaboration earns grant to help Navajo Nation diversify economy away from coal production

Kayenta Mine

Northern Arizona University is part of a team that recently earned a $100,000 grant aimed at providing assistance to communities impacted by the reduced use of coal and the closure of coal-fired power plants.

The grant came from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Authority (EDA) and will help to fulfill the commitments of a memorandum of agreement recently signed by the Navajo Nation, NAU and Arizona State University to support the diversification of the Nation’s economic base from a heavy reliance on coal royalties and jobs associated with the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) and Kayenta Mine.

NGS and the Kayenta Mine are slated to close by the end of 2019, which will eliminate hundreds of jobs and a significant source of revenue to the Navajo Nation government.

“The closure of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine will have a devastating impact on the Navajo and Hopi nations,” said Chad Hamill, vice president for the Office of Native American Initiatives. “The grant from the Economic Development Authority will enable teams from NAU and ASU to work with affected tribal communities on economic development and renewable energy initiatives. It won’t replace the many hundreds of jobs lost, but it’s a start.”

NAU has worked for decades with the Navajo Nation and other Native American tribes that will be affected by the closure of the power plant. Past or ongoing projects include renewable energy resource assessment, K-12 energy education efforts and other targeted technical assistance such as climate change planning and environmental technician job training programs. These initiatives have been supported by faculty and staff in the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability and the Office of Native American Initiatives.

The MOA between the universities and the Navajo Nation creates a collaborative mechanism for the universities to support the Nation’s work pursuing additional renewable energy development and expanded rural electrification, and the associated job creation and other economic development.

“The Navajo Nation is pleased to hear that EDA has funded this proposal,” leaders of the Navajo Nation said in a statement. “The Nation is collaborating with ASU and NAU to look at renewable energy development possibilities. The Nation looks forward to developing this relationship with this much-needed funding.”

This project builds on work performed by Karin Wadsack, project director in the School of Earth Sciences & Environmental Sustainability, who has a sponsored project funded by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to provide technical assistance to NGS-affected tribes in northeastern Arizona.

NAU Communications