Gallup Independent

Navajo working on its own energy policy

By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- The Navajo Nation has been working since 2001 to develop its own national energy policy with technical assistance from Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and other federal agencies.

The World Bank's Energy, Mining and Industry Division provided informal critique of a draft of the energy policy in January 2003, according to a March 2003 brief from the Navajo Nation Energy Policy Development Project.

Suzy J. Baldwin, an independent contractor now working on development of the Desert Rock Energy Project with Sithe Global Power LLC., coordinated and represented the Navajo Energy Policy Development Working Group under the Division of Natural Resources.

Baldwin also worked with Resource Science Inc. of Tucson which put together guiding principles and a plan for improved mineral resource governance within the Navajo Nation.

Baldwin worked with the Office of the President and Vice President, congressional offices in Washington, the Council of Energy Resource Tribes as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and national laboratories to compile the draft energy policy.

Though the report by Baldwin and the working group has yet to officially see the light of day, there are signs that the process is moving along, such as getting agreements in place for the proposed 1,500 megawatt, two-unit Desert Rock power plant in the Four Corners area.

Included in the Navajo energy policy is a "Water for Energy" recommendation based on a program from DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The Navajo energy policy recommends Sandia help coordinate the integration of energy and water issues, with Sandia representing "a much needed 'honest broker'" that would provide unbiased scientific/engineering analysis relating to energy/water resources management.

In early July 2003, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. convened a meeting to review key elements of the draft energy policy, according to a July 28, 2003, letter from Arvin Trujillo, executive director of the Division of Natural Resources.

Trujillo told the president, "The meeting was effective in conveying the overall content and findings of an 18-month program having complex and ongoing issues."

At the request of several staff following the meeting, the Energy Policy Development Working Group put together observations and suggested courses of action to keep the program moving forward.

Trujillo sent copies of the letter to Vice President Frank Dayish Jr.; Attorney General Louis Denetsosie; Gerri Harrison, legal counsel for Office of the President; Sharon Clahchischillage, executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office; and Baldwin.

One of the observations from the meeting was a need to clarify that the draft of the Navajo Nation Energy Policy project is fundamentally different from the U.S. Energy Policy, Trujillo said.

While the two policies share some common attributes, there is a fundamental difference in perspective. The U.S. Energy Policy considers issues in the end-use market, he said.

In contrast, the Navajo Nation project is focused on the front end, the supply side.

One of the recommendations was that the president's office assist DNR in implementing the development of a corresponding water policy.

"Energy, development, and water issues are inextricably linked, and a water policy is needed to address ongoing issues relating to both energy and other economic development plans," the working group said.

Though the atmosphere was "acrimonious and meaningful dialogue was not possible" early on in the program, the working group "has bridged the trust gap by defining common ground on complex issues. Communities and companies have started to dialogue in meaningful ways," the group said.

The energy policy calls for creation of a dynamic Global Information System model for managing interconnected surface and groundwater systems.

Implementation strategy begins with creation of the Navajo Nation Energy Office followed by creation of the Native Nations Southwest Laboratory at Dine College in Shiprock to establish the Navajo Nation as a "national energy incubator."

The Nation previously assigned to Lawrence Livermore the authority to explore funding from Congress amounting to $22 million the first year and $6 million annually for the next four years of operation.

A resolution to that effect was approved by the Navajo Nation Council in April 2001.

The Navajo Nation has been seeking funding to establish both the energy office and laboratory. Funding sources will refect a combination of federal appropriations and matching industry/private contributions, according to the implementation strategy.

"To this end, funding should be viewed as an investment that stimulates the following returns by 2010:

* A clean coal power plant within the Four Corner region, and

* A clean coal power plant within the Black Mesa region."

The proposed energy policy is designed to create new investment in renewable and non-renewable energy development.

Last November, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., secured $1 million for the Navajo Electrification Project to support deployment of electricity grid infrastructure.

Also in the FY2006 $30.5 billion Energy and Water Appropriations Bill signed by Bush, Domenici secured $12.5 million to support a Sandia National Laboratories Water Technology Program. This funding includes: $7 million for desalination and arsenic treatment; $2 million for water supply technology development; and $3.5 million for work for trans-boundary cooperation and to support collaboration between Sandia and New Mexico State Engineer.

Domenici also supported $4.7 million for Sandia to demonstrate and test two solar technologies‹Advanced Photovoltaic and 1 MW Concentrating Solar Technology.