New bill hopes to support communities after Navajo Generating Station closure
A reintroduced bill by Rep. Tom O’Halleran hopes to provide assistance to northern Arizona communities and local tribes impacted by the closure of Navajo Generating Station.
O’Halleran, a Democrat representing Congressional District 1, spoke Monday about the legislation during a visit to Page.
During the visit, O’Halleran was joined by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma of the Hopi tribe and Page Mayor Bill Diak, in addition to county and local officials.
“NGS was a powerhouse for northern Arizona, and the many rural and tribal families who relied on the good-paying jobs it provided,” said O’Halleran in a statement. “With the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism has plummeted, especially from the international visitors the Page community was so used to welcoming."
And the legislation’s introduction was supported by several northern Arizona leaders, including Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler.
Fowler thanked O’Halleran in a statement for reintroducing the bill and said it would help struggling residents by providing sustainable and dependable job opportunities.
But O’Halleran told the Arizona Daily Sun that what has been dubbed the NEW PROMISE is meant to apply to more than just the local communities impacted by the closure of NGS in 2019. He said the bill is designed to support rural communities across the country that have seen closures of coal plants, or may be seeing those plants close in the coming years.
“It’s not just tribal communities, it’s every community. Two hundred-some communities in the country that are losing power plants. To assist them in stabilizing their economies or getting tax dollars back into the school districts and the counties,” O’Halleran said.
And O’Halleran said he sees this plan as a potential part of the current infrastructure and climate plan that Democrats now appear focused on.
That effort, called the “build back better” plan, is meant to support post COVID-19 economic growth while also addressing issues of ongoing climate change.
O’Halleran said he believes that while the closure of coal-fired plants will help address climate change, it’s not the only reason they are closing. Cheaper forms of energy such as renewables and natural gas are also important factors, he said.
The bill hopes to assist communities in several ways, including allocating $1.35 billion in federal funding to supporting communities that see plant closures.
Within that allocation, $50 million annually, or a total of $700 million, would go to economic development planning to distressed impacted areas over 14 years.
Impacted areas would also see another $50 million annually for infrastructure investments over five years.
The allocation also includes $100 million to support training programs for displaced workers over 10 years and $250 million to make up for lost revenues for local governments caused by plant closures -- which phases down annually across seven years.
In addition to the federal investments, the bill directed the secretary of labor and director of the White House council to establish a 10-year pilot program to provide education and training opportunities for former coal plant workers so they might find jobs in other energy related sectors.
It also calls for a White House council to track data on the closures of coal-fired power plants and the impacts of those closures and requires the operators of coal power plants to communicate with local governments regarding projected dates for closure.
O'Halleran previously introduced similar legislation last year.