WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) are introducing legislation to authorize a one-time $89 million infusion of funds into the Navajo Electrification Demonstration Program (NEDP) to empower the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to implement projects that bring electric power to Navajo households. The senators will be seeking the funding in a bill for COVID-relief or other near-term legislation.
According to the NTUA, there are about 15,000 Navajo families that currently do not have electric power. With current funding, NTUA averages only about 470 new power connections per year. Senators Heinrich and McSally’s legislation would invigorate the NEDP and create an immediate path forward for an additional 2100 Navajo households to receive electric power, using power-line extensions or standalone renewable wind and solar power systems in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The NEDP is an existing authorization program that was previously utilized in 2000.
“We have seen the proven effectiveness of the Navajo Electrification Demonstration Program in the past. By reauthorizing this program, we can ramp up job-creating clean energy projects to bring electricity to Navajo families,” said Heinrich. “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed so many disparities impacting the Navajo Nation, including 15,000 Navajo households that lack access to electricity. That is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation and will continue fighting for resources that help the Navajo Nation and every tribal community thrive.”
“The Navajo Nation has been among the hardest hit communities by the coronavirus,” said McSally. “In the midst of a pandemic, the lack of adequate infrastructure on Navajo Nation, including access to electricity, has only exacerbated this crisis. Our legislation will bring desperately-needed relief to these struggling families by empowering the NTUA to bring electricity to Navajo households.”
The legislation is supported by the Navajo Nation.
“There are over 15,000 homes needing electrification on the Navajo Nation. We thank Senator Heinrich for his leadership in introducing a bill that moves the needle on fulfilling the promise to bring infrastructure to Indian Country. His bill would provide $89 million for the electrification of 2,172 homes. There are few words to describe seeing an elder turn on their lights for the very first time. During the ongoing pandemic, we appreciate every effort to bring relief to struggling families,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
Read the full text of the bill here.