Councilman Mitch O’Farrell Friday introduced a motion to request the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power participate in the “Light Up Navajo” program, a regional effort to bring power to thousands of Navajo families.
“As Los Angeles moves toward its own renewable energy goals, we must also strengthen our partnerships, particularly with our friends in the Navajo Nation,” said O’Farrell, who is a member of the Wyandotte Nation and chair of the Los Angeles City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River Committee. “This is a mutually beneficial project that will further training standards for city employees while directly assisting Navajo families in need. ‘Light Up Navajo’ also provides the city the opportunity to rectify its dirty environmental practices of the past.”
If LADWP participates in the program, it will be the second California utility, after Sacramento Municipal Utility District, to bring power to the Navajo Nation, which spans 27,000 square miles across Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
About 15,000 Navajo families don’t have access to power infrastructure, O’Farrell said. The “Light Up Navajo” program began in 2019 as a partnership between the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and the American Public Power Association. So far, it has delivered power to more than 900 families during two phases of work. The third phase is set to start in Spring 2022.
Los Angeles purchased “inexpensive but dirty” power from a Navajo facility for 40 years, since the 1970s, before divesting, according to O’Farrell’s office. That facility has since closed. O’Farrell has also proposed new renewable energy partnerships with the Navajo.
“This historic partnership exemplifies the city’s commitment to environmental justice,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who seconded O’Farrell’s motion. “Regrettably, the city’s historical legacy sometimes involved environmentally destructive policies that were insensitive to the needs of local communities, including Native Americans. Through ‘Light Up Navajo’, the LADWP will bring electricity, economic opportunity and hope to severely underserved communities in the Navajo Nation.”
O’Farrell and Krekorian traveled to the Navajo nation to discuss the program and other opportunities for partnership with Navajo leadership.
“We thank Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Krekorian for reaching out to the Navajo Nation and witnessing firsthand the success of `Light Up Navajo,”’ said Navajo President Jonathan Nez. “The Navajo Nation looks forward to a long-term relationship with the city of Los Angeles and the Navajo People.”