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APS To Invest $144 Million In Tribal Communities Impacted By Coal Closures

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Arizona Public Service Company’s plan to end all of its coal power generation by 2031 is expected to take a heavy economic toll on tribal communities. Now, the company has proposed sweeping investments in economic development in Indian Country. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

The Four Corners and Cholla power plants employ hundreds of mostly tribal members and provide significant revenue for the Navajo and Hopi nations. They’re slated to close within the next decade, and APS’s Coal Community Transition Plan would provide $144 million to ease the process. The company says it’s the most an American utility has ever invested in local post-coal economies.

"We felt it necessary to invest in these communities so that there’s a glide path for them to transition out of coal and into some new economic engine that’s going to help them be successful going forward," says APS Northeast Division Director John Haro.

The plan would spend $10 million connecting Navajo homes to the electrical grid and fund 600 megawatts of renewable energy projects, among other initiatives.

APS shareholders would pay for almost 20% of the nearly $130 million the company plans to invest on Navajo alone. To fund the rest, APS proposes an average rate increase of .36% over 10 years for customers.

The Arizona Corporation Commission is expected to consider the plan next year, and if approved, could go into effect by fall 2021.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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