Red Mesa Community Left in the Dark about Solar Project

Red Mesa Community Demands Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), Open Discussions with Community on the Lack of Community Engagement and Consent Issues

Red Mesa community members gathered at the NTUA Red Mesa District Office to urge NTUA to cease progress on the development of the Red Mesa Tapaha Solar Project. Until NTUA thoroughly explains the project to the community, addresses community concerns, provides alternatives, and ensures community benefits.

RED MESA, UTAH – On Tuesday, October 26th, the Red Mesa Community conducted a protest in an effort to bring awareness to potential employees of Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) and Aerotek during the one-day job fair. The Red Mesa Tapaha Solar Facility Project was planned, proposed, and finalized without the proper notification and consent of the residents who live closest to the project site.

Red Mesa community members have reported that NTUA did not effectively conduct public outreach, nor did they thoroughly educate and provide detailed information on the proposed solar project to the community starting in April of 2019. It was only when Jonathan Nez issued his press release on finalizing the lease agreement for the project on April 6, 2021, did the greater community realize what had happened. The community members who have been directly affected by the project took it upon themselves, after numerous appeals to the local chapter and central government leaders, to postpone the project by rescinding NTUA’s original resolution #07-041519 during a regular chapter meeting on May 17, 2021. These residents then created and signed on to a petition opposing the solar project in October of 2021.

“proposed project was processed secretly and was never communicated to 8 other grazing permit [holders]”

Ruth Johnson, Red Mesa Community Member

There is also the issue of grazing permits and the fact that only two grazing permit holders were identified initially, when in fact there are eight (8) other grazing permittees. According to Ruth Johnson, who holds a grazing permit, the “proposed project was processed secretly and was never communicated to 8 other grazing permit [holders]”. The Red Mesa area is heavily impacted by natural gas development and the people there know the side effects of natural gas on the land and their water, which is why they would like to keep as much of their land undisturbed as possible. The solar project site is a beautiful area with immense vegetation and forage present and people like Ruth Johnson would like to see the area “preserved for [her] children, grandchildren, and their children and many generations to come.” Although, these residents are not wholly against solar or renewable energy in general, they are clearly against the process or route that NTUA and Red Mesa Chapter have taken that has led up to this moment. They would like the project to be halted until a dialogue is started that includes: all permittee holders, their families, interested community members, Red Mesa Chapter Officials, Council Delegate Charlaine Tso, and NTUA Representatives. Alternatives to the project site need to be considered, concerns need to be addressed and substantial community benefits need to be written out and formally included in all agreements.

“We’ve always known that the energy sector on the Navajo Nation is corrupt and perpetuates community and environmental injustices but it’s disheartening to also realize that our own tribal enterprises are pitting neighbor against neighbor, family against family, and leaving everyone else out of the conversation. We, the Navajo people, play host to all these energy projects and we never receive the benefits, only the costs,” said Jessica Keetso of the Navajo grassroots group Tó Nizhóní Ání, who helped organize this action. “NTUA has been operating on the Navajo Nation since 1959, that’s 62 years and yet they still don’t seem to understand the practice of K’é.”

To view more photos from this action check out our Facebook page:

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Tó Nizhóní Ání “Sacred Springs Speaks”