December 2010

Wind-farm veto is overridden

A long-stalled wind-farm project at Gray Mountain near Cameron, Ariz., is moving forward despite a veto by Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr.

Navajo council delegates voted to override the veto on Nov. 23 after first failing to muster enough votes for the override.

The wind farm’s approval came after a fierce struggle in recent weeks.

On Oct. 21, Bobbie Robbins and Raymond Maxx, Tuba City council delegates, and Jack Colorado, Cameron Chapter delegate, co-sponsored a council resolution supporting Navajo Nation lease negotiations with IPP and Sempra Generation to develop a 500-megawatt wind farm on Gray Mountain [Free Press, November 2010]. The legislation passed the council in spite of a surprising allegation made by council delegate Norman John during the floor debate that afternoon that he might have been offered a bribe for his vote to approve it.

On the weekend prior to the veto, Tuba City’s Maxx talked with the president and felt hopeful that he would support the legislation that would bring jobs and economic benefit to the depressed area of the Navajo Nation. But on Nov. 8, Shirley vetoed the measure, saying he was concerned that John’s allegation had not been immediately addressed.

But since that allegation, said Bruce McAlvain of IPP, “the Ethics and Rules Committee has written a letter stating that they have not heard anything from John and have not been asked to investigate any of his allegations.”

Co-sponsors of the wind-farm legislation had been prepared for a possible veto and had been lobbying council delegates to call for an override if necessary. On Nov. 23 the override went to the council. On the first vote that morning the override legislation failed 57-19-12 (it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass – 59 votes). But a second vote passed 64-8-16, giving approval to lease negotiations between the Navajo Nation, Sempra Generation and IPP. According to the lease negotiations, the developer will fund 100 percent of the $1.25 billion project. Construction is to be completed by 2013.