Manatt Partner Comments on Navajo Nation Coal Mine Agreement
"Navajo Nation to Buy Mine, Help Preserve Power Plant"
December 21, 2012 - Manatt's Craig Moyer, chair of the firm's Land, Environment & Natural Resources Division, spoke to Greenwire on what acquiring a Navajo coal mine will mean for the Navajo Nation.
As reported by Greenwire, the Navajo Nation recently entered into a memorandum of understanding to take control of BHP Billiton's Navajo coal mine by June 2013, which will keep the mine open and secure fuel for the Four Corners Power Plant.
"On the macro level [the agreement is] also important in that, I think, this acquisition would change the debate over coal," said Moyer, who is lead counsel in the negotiations. "It's going to be very difficult for opponents to hurl the false and vitriolic accusations that they level against large coal companies against the Navajo Nation."
Under the MOU, BHP will run the mine until 2016 under Navajo Nation ownership. Although terms of the buyout have yet to be completed, Moyer said it would likely involve a revenue deal and not an "out-of- pocket" expense by the tribe.
The Navajos, he said, can run the mine more cheaply because of not having to pay state and federal income taxes. Also, BHP currently pays the Nation a royalty for mining the coal.