Monthly Archives: January 2011

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Please submit comments to support US EPA's plan to require Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) on the Navajo Generating Station (NGS)

Salt River Project is conducting meetings on US EPA’s plan to require Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) on Navajo Generating Station (NGS) impacting visibility at the Grand Canyon and degrading Sacred land, air and water resources. Please attend these meetings and submit comments on the record. Please check out:


A more practical path to clean energy

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” – Thomas Edison

Please check out the link:

posted by: Dave R. 20 hours ago

While President Obama was in Washington speaking to the the joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, I had a chance to hear former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich speak before a similar sized but decidedly less “A list” crowd at St. Mary’s College in California.

Both expressed concerns over the economy, oil dependence, and carbon, but have very different approaches to the issues.  After pointing out that this is our “Sputnik moment”,  Obama channeled JFK, and suggested funding clean energy as one of the “Apollo projects of our time.”

As he said “We need to get behind this innovation.  And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies…so instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.”

Reich’s approach on the other hand is based more on giving clean energy a boost by putting market forces to work – government regulation rather than government spending. He suggested a carbon tax, reflecting the many social costs of fossil fuels (and believe me, there are many.)  The higher priced fossil fuels would create more demand for alternative energy, accellerating both investment and the scale neccessary to achieve the stretch goal the President set of 80% of electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

While the Apollo project did get a man on the moon – an unbelievable accomplishment even now – the cost and complexity of the program were enormous. The “brute force”/ big spending approach used by Nasa didn’t lead to a long term practical or commercially viable space program. Ask about the results, and Nasa points to the many ancellary innovations resulting from the $25 Billion program (1970 dollars) , which include everything from programmable pacemakers to dustbusters. I like to think that those innovations would have come along without the Apollo program, and would have been funded by industry rather than tax payers.  The space shuttle is also considered by many to be unsustainably expensive… another technological cul de sac.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s private Space X startup is approaching space flight with a philosophy that “simplicity, low-cost, and reliability can go hand in hand.” Similarly, the goal should not just be to throw money at clean energy, but to create technology paths that are commercially sound and cost effective.

Funding is also an issue. When JFK proposed to put a man on the moon, the US debt was 40% of annual GDP.  With the figure hovering near 100% now, it’s hard to imagine funding a new ‘space race’ in clean energy. In contrast, Reich’s plan actually generates income. While the cost of the tax would be borne by the public, his idea would be to give back the income to  lower income wage earners in the form of earned income tax credits, increasing income, expanding middlle class spending power, and pulling us out of the recession.

The President spoke of a future with high speed rail and electric cars criss crossing the country. But it’s an exciting vision only if the public can afford to ride them.

Read more: global warming, reich, climate change, carbon tax

Concerns raised over proposed uranium mines, ore transport

Concerns raised over proposed uranium mines, ore transport

By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK – In the late 1990’s there was a major outcry in Western Navajo Agency from Dine drivers who traveled U.S. Highway 89 through the Navajo Nation due to an excessive number of motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. They came up with a bumper sticker in protest: “Pray for me and mine. We drive Highway 89.”

While the number of fatalities on Arizona roads have decreased somewhat in the last couple years, a number of Arizonans are concerned about the 48 truckloads of uranium ore per day that will find its way onto U.S. 89 and other routes across the reservation to White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah, if Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issues permits for three underground uranium mines near the Grand Canyon. Arizona 1 is already operating.

ADEQ plans to issue air and water permits to Denison Mines (USA) Corp. for its Canyon Mine southeast of Tusayan in Coconino County, and the EZ Mine and Pinenut Mine near Fredonia.

The deadline for comments was Friday, but former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Thomas Walker Jr., said that’s not the end of it. Walker had attempted to get a position statement opposing the transportation of uranium ore through Navajo passed by Council during its Jan. 7 session, but Council lost quorum before it could be presented.

“I’m going to encourage the 22nd Council to prioritize that opposition position resolution,” he said. Two routes are proposed through Navajo, he said. The route from the south Grand Canyon mines would pass through Cameron, Tuba City, Kayenta, Dennehotso and Navajo chapters in Utah. From the north mines, ore would be transported to Kanab, Page, Shonto and Kayenta, and on to the mill north of Blanding.

“Clearly we must be taking a strong stance early in this whole process,” Walker said. “Young Jeff Tom back in 1999 tried to legislate a resolution that established the Navajo Nation as a nuclear-free zone.” A legal opinion from legislative counsel stated that while Council could approve a policy statement establishing such, it may not be able to exercise jurisdiction over the transport of nuclear products on roads with federal, state or county rights of way.

“The situation has arisen where the affected tribes have vested interest and very grave concerns over the health and safety of our people because of the uranium transportation proposal,” Walker said.

In addition to potential traffic hazards, a 2010 report by the National Parks Conservation Association found that uranium mining activities on lands adjacent to the park could result in environmental and watershed contamination. In 1984, a flash flood carried tons of high-grade uranium ore from six existing mines north of the park down Kanab Creek and into the park. While no studies have been done to determine whether there have been long-lasting effects from this event, the report states that it is indicative of how future uranium mining could lead to contamination of surface waters.

Grand Canyon Trust filed comments Friday along with the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club, stating that they are “adamantly opposed” to opening the three mines, all of which are located within watersheds that drain directly into Grand Canyon National Park.

There are two main concerns, according to Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust. “One, there’s not any monitoring both of air and water that measures contamination of surface and groundwater or radon gas in the air or dust particles spreading from the mine. There’s voluntary reporting by the operator.”

The U.S. Geological Survey did a quick survey of some of the old mine sites last year, he said. “They found the Kanab North Mine, which hasn’t been mined out, has extensive radioactive dust and soil way outside the perimeter of the fenced area and dropping down into Kanab Creek. There’s no meaningful monitoring of the groundwater or the surface water or the air, so it’s really a joke to call it an aquifer protection permit or air quality permit because they don’t monitor it,” Clark said.

“More concerning is there’s no way to detect it when contamination occurs. As we’ve learned time and time again with groundwater on the Navajo rez and one mine inside Grand Canyon National Park, once groundwater is contaminated, there’s no turning back. There’s no effective way, no matter how much money you throw at it, to remediate that.”

A Coconino County supervisor expressed concern with language in the draft permit which specifies that haul trucks “shall be operated in such a way that ore cannot escape through any slits or openings in the bed of the truck,” and that loads must be covered with a tarpaulin.

This provision may prevent uranium ore from being spilled, but it does nothing to prevent fugitive dust from contaminating roadsides, he said, adding that USGS found elevated levels of uranium in soils near ore-hauling roads at the Pigeon and Hermit mines north of the Grand Canyon. He recommended the trucks, at minimum, be covered with a solid lid with sealed seams and that ADEQ monitor for contamination along haul routes.

The Forgotten People in the former Bennett Freeze area submitted comments stating that the mines are located within the 1-million-acre watershed of the Grand Canyon that the Obama administration has proposed as off-limits to mining. That proposal followed concerns by tribes, scientists, businesses, local governments and conservation groups that uranium mining around the Grand Canyon could harm wildlife, industrialize wildlands and deplete or contaminate aquifers that feed the canyon’s seeps and springs.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued more than 60 citations since 2009 relating to operations at Denison’s Arizona 1 mine north of Grand Canyon and the company’s Pandora uranium mine in Utah, Forgotten People stated.

Please check out the link to the Comments Forgotten People submitted opposing uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed:

1 14 2011 FP FINAL SUBMITTED Comments Oppose Uranium Mining in Grand Canyon Watershed

Water Demand letter: Black Falls and Box Springs Water

Please check out the link to a Water Demand letter re: Black Falls and Box Springs Water

1 14 2011 Zion Water Resources Demand Letter0001-1

1/21/2011 Gallup Independent: A year after public health emergency declared, first water truck arrives

A year after public health emergency declared, first water truck arrives

By Kathy Helms
Dine Bureau
Gallup Independent

WINDOW ROCK – Two of five water-hauling trucks designated for areas of the Navajo Nation where the drinking water is contaminated, or not available at all, arrived in Fort Defiance the first week of January. When they actually will begin service, and when the other three trucks will arrive is anyone’s guess.

In 2009, Najam Tariq of Navajo Division of Water Resources put together a proposal requesting $2.64 million from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a three-year water hauling pilot project which included five 4,000-gallon stainless steel tankers. EPA approved the project and in August 2009 Tariq estimated it would take 90 to 180 days to get the trucks and three to six months to implement the program.

On Jan.15, 2010, a public health state of emergency was declared for Navajo residents in northwestern Leupp and southeastern Cameron who were drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water. A public health “emergency,” by definition, generally means there is some immediate threat and demands quick action. Or at least that’s what members of the Forgotten People thought when they pushed for the emergency declaration due to the number of cancer victims out in the Black Falls/Box Spring/Grand Falls area.

“We don’t know at this time when the trucks are going to go out,” Tariq said Tuesday. “They have to be tagged, we have to get the title. We are in the process of doing that so we can get the registration, insurance and everything. We are doing our best to put them on the road as soon as we can. We are not wasting any time. We just have to comply with the process.”

As far as when the other three trucks will arrive, he said, “No idea, to be very honest.”

Part of the process – aside from tags, title and insurance – is lining up a driver with the proper credentials, locating a safe drinking water source from which the water will be hauled as well as a point to which it will be delivered, making sure the roads are navigable and any bridges that might be encountered can handle the weight.

During a Jan. 5 exit interview with the 21st Navajo Nation Council Resources Committee, Tariq stated that the first two trucks had arrived that morning. “We will expedite to get them registered and insured and everything. As I mentioned before the Resources Committee, and also we promised to the people, the first load of water will go to the Black Falls and Box Spring area,” he said.

Rolanda Tohannie of Box Spring, a survivor of thyroid and
esophagus cancer, underwent her sixth surgery in mid-December,
this time to have a tumor removed from the right side of her neck.
She received a donation of drinking water from Native American
Support Mission in Anaheim, Calif.

The Forgotten People, meanwhile, are running thin on patience and are tired of waiting for emergency action. They want to see an immediate plan of action on water delivery and last week had their attorney, James W. Zion of Albuquerque, send a letter to Tariq advising him that the Forgotten People Community Development Corp. intends to enforce the rights of the residents of the Leupp and Cameron chapters affected by the emergency declaration. They want an accounting of all funds appropriated for the emergency.

“We want enforcement of the grant,” Marsha Monestersky, program director, said, “We want Forgotten People to participate, because we actually know what might be a good way to do things. We want the resources put in place and we want it now. We’re not waiting anymore. It’s been over a year. We got GPS coordinates of all the locations of people’s homes, the roads, the driveways. We thought this emergency was going to be real. If they had a soul they’d be embarrassed.

“This is the year to write grants and file grant enforcement suits if necessary. We are going to provide relief to the people. It’s not that we want to file a grant enforcement suit, but a year is too long to wait for people that area suffering and dying.”

Milton Yazzie of Black Falls was contracted by the U.S. EPA Region 9 Superfund program to haul drinking water from “Sparkletts” in Flagstaff to the home of Jimmie and Irene Lee and Florabelle Paddock from December 2009 through February 2010. Since the EPA-funded water delivery ended nearly a year ago, Yazzie has been making deliveries out of his own pocket, except for one donation he received last September from some concerned individuals.

“I try to make deliveries when I’ve got the money, every two weeks; but I’ve been having some problems. I had all three vehicles go down on me and we had no transportation for about three weeks. The one that I’ve been hauling water with, my 4-wheel went out and I can’t get through without no 4-wheel, especially to Flora’s.”

After the federal contract ran out, Yazzie said, “everybody was getting sick. I know they were back to drinking that same water again.” He decided to continue the deliveries. At first it wasn’t so costly, then Flagstaff tacked on a new tax and the price of gas went up as well. He also added Rolanda and Larry Tohannie, who live near Box Spring without electricity and running water, to his deliveries.

Larry has congestive heart failure and Rolanda, a survivor of thyroid and esophagus cancer, underwent a hysterectomy in July because cysts were found growing on her uterus. She spent the week of Dec. 9 at Flagstaff Medical Center where doctors removed a tumor from the side of her neck. Because some nerves had to be cut during the procedure, one side of her face is now sagging, though she is expected to recover in time.

“She’s in dire straits, and right now they don’t have nothing to haul water with,” Yazzie said. “They have an automobile but it keeps going off and on. She wanted me to start doing some firewood for her. They only had one stick left when I went Friday.” At five o’clock the next morning he loaded up half a truck bed from his own firewood stack and took it to the Tohannies before daylight.

“There’s six of them in that household. I added one more bottle to their’s other than the four I usually do. It set me back $83 for 13 bottles and I’m still $7 in the hole (to Sparklettes) from the last time.”

Yazzie said he can’t handle more than $80 out of his income because he only works four hours a day providing home care for his mother. “If I do it every two weeks it’s going to be $160 a month. Gas is a whole different story. It’s almost $3.21 a gallon in Cameron now.” In Flagstaff it’s about 2 cents shy of $3, he said.

“But the wear and tear, that got me big-time though. I got stuck three times coming back out of Florabelle’s. They ruined both their rides and I had to take them into town to get their parts and bring them back to where they live. Florabelle is in and out of the hospital so much because her red or white blood cells were diminishing. She came home yesterday after spending a week in the hospital with pneumonia,” Yazzie said Wednesday.

At a meeting of the Forgotten People in July 2009 after Paddock learned she was sick, she said she had been drinking water from Tohatchi Springs all her life. “I did not know it was contaminated. I am angry and frustrated we were not informed. No one was going door to door to tell us the water we are drinking is contaminated.”

Tariq told the Resources Committee that in addition to the water truck, they are running a water line very close to the Box Spring area and it should be completed before summer. “That water line is actually for livestock water use, but we are also working in conjunction with the Bureau of Reclamation to convert that livestock water into drinking water by installing a treatment plant over there. We have a requested for funding and the Bureau of Reclamation is very, very interested to fund that project,” he said.

Another 6 miles of water line, also for livestock, would bring the water close to the river in the Grand Falls area, he said, and they will try to see if they can get a treatment plant there as well so people don’t have to drive 15 to 30 miles for water.

Water Resources also has prepared a proposal with Indian Health Service to drill two exploratory wells to provide drinking water for the western Leupp/Black Falls/Grand Falls/Box Spring area, he said. They received $450,000 to drill one well. Funding for the second well depends on the success of the first well.

1/14/2011 Web Album NASM Relief comes to Black Falls & Box Springs

Please check out our Native American Support Mission (NASM )Web Album Relief comes to Black Falls & Box Springs.


1/15/2011 Gallup Independent article: A future envisioned California students continue Bennett Freeze work

A future envisioned

California students continue Bennett Freeze work

Gallup Independent

Weekend edition 1/15/2011

By Shelley Smithson

TUBA CITY – Even before volunteers began raising the walls of her new house Thursday, Jorita Riggs could envision her future inside of it.

The 55-year-old grandmother is looking forward to sitting in her warm home, helping her grandkids with homework and telling them traditional stories of the Dine, just as her mother did.

“I’ve never had a home of my own. This means a lot to me,” Riggs said, as she watched a work crew of students from the University of California at Berkeley complete her home’s foundation. Twenty-four Berkeley students traveled to the Western Agency during their winter break this week to help residents with home projects.

Riggs’ new home, just outside Tuba City, almost slipped away before construction ever started. Although Navajo Veterans Affairs workers delivered materials to build a new home in October, Riggs was unable to find helpers to get started on construction. VA officials told her if she didn’t start building right away, they would take the lumber back, so that it wouldn’t ruin. The student volunteers showed up just in time to help Riggs, whose deceased husband was a Vietnam veteran.

The students were assisting Forgotten People, a non-profit organization that works to improve living conditions for Navajos in the former Bennett Freeze area. Because of a land dispute with the Hopi tribe, Congress froze 1.6 million acres from development in 1966 until a settlement between the tribes could be reached.

Although a settlement was approved in 2006, most of the estimated 12,000 people living in the far western portion of the Navajo Nation still lack electricity, running water or adequate housing. Many people have died of cancer from drinking uranium-laden water that has been contaminated by mines that were never cleaned up.

To students from the affluent university near the San Francisco Bay, conditions here are sobering. “It’s amazing how neglected this area has been, right here in the United States,” said Jay Garg, a 22-year-old biology student who recently graduated from Berkeley.

Garg and others spent last week building, repairing and painting homes near Tuba City, Cameron, Black Falls and Box Springs, Ariz. He is a volunteer with Berkeley’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The group partnered with Project Pueblo, another student aid organization that began working on the Navajo Nation two years ago.

“I’m acutely aware that my generation is the ‘Facebook Generation,’ that we’re really self-absorbed,” said 20-year-old Anthony Rodriguez, a Project Pueblo coordinator who has made eight service trips to the Navajo Nation. “If a whole generation is like that, what happens to the world, to the ones who aren’t privileged?”

Elmer Woody, a VA carpenter who inspected the student work, said he was impressed by how hard and how fast the young people worked. Elmer has recruited fellow Vietnam vets to continue construction on Riggs’ house after the students leave.

Many of the students said they plan to come back in March during spring break, and they hope to bring more friends with them.

Marsha Monestersky, program director of Forgotten People, said last week’s projects are just the beginning of a rebuilding campaign, now that the Bennett Freeze has been lifted.

She said the formation last week of a Habitat for Humanity chapter in Tuba City – Hogans for Humanity — will aid in the reconstruction of the region. Forgotten People is applying for grants to build energy-efficient homes of sustainable materials, weatherize existing homes and bring solar electricity and clean water to homes.

“We are rebuilding! The Bennett Freeze is lifted,” Monestersky said. “It’s a new day!”



PHOTO 1 (raising the wall) 

Students from the University of California, Berkeley, raise one of the walls of Jorita Riggs’ new home outside Tuba City. Riggs, fourth from the right, said she has never had a home of her own.

PHOTO 2: (girls working)

Kristina Hart, left, and Maria Patanwala, both students at University of California, Berkeley, connect studs the frame of Jorita Riggs’ new home just outside Tuba City, in the former Bennett Freeze area.

Forgotten People Web Album: Mid-January, 2011 UC Berkeley Project Pueblo & Habitat for Humanity build a VA house in the former Bennett Freeze

Please check out a mid-January 2011 Web album of Forgotten People and UC Berkeley Project Pueblo & Habitat for Humanity building a home for a Veteran. Forgotten People creates the first Habitat for Humanity Chapter ‘Hogans for Humanity’ on the Navajo Nation!  Rebuilding the former Bennett Freeze!

There is no place like home!

Please submit comments online to oppose uranium mining within the Grand Canyon watershed

Public comment sought for Grand Canyon uranium mining

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.- The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will host public meetings in December and January about plans to permit three uranium mines that threaten the wildlife and ecology of Grand Canyon National Park. A meeting will be held in Flagstaff at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at the Sinagua Middle School auditorium. A hearing will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6 at the same location. Sinagua Middle School is located at 3950 E. Butler Ave. You can also submit comments via E-mail to: The deadline for comments is: January 14, 2011.

Denison Mines, a Canadian- and Korean-owned mining firm, is seeking state air permits for the Pinenut and Canyon uranium mines and air and aquifer protection permits for the EZ uranium mine. The agency is proposing to permit the EZ mine with a general aquifer-protection permit that includes far fewer requirements than an individual permit.

“Given the potential threat to the groundwater and ultimately the seeps and springs of Grand Canyon, it is outrageous that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is not requiring the most stringent protections,” said Alicyn Gitlin with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

The proposed air permits require mine operators to report violations and emergencies within 24 hours of learning of toxic releases but include no emergency procedures for containing releases, alerting the public or containing uranium spilled during ore-hauling accidents. Ore from the Canyon mine would be hauled through Williams, Flagstaff and Cameron.

The mines are located within the 1 million-acre watershed of the Grand Canyon that the Obama administration has proposed as off-limits to mining. That proposal followed concerns by tribes, scientists, businesses, local governments and conservation groups that uranium mining around Grand Canyon could harm wildlife, industrialize wildlands and deplete or contaminate aquifers that feed the Grand Canyon’s seeps and springs.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued more than 60 citations since 2009 relating to operations at Denison’s Arizona 1 mine north of Grand Canyon and the company’s Pandora uranium mine in Utah, where there was a mining fatality earlier this year. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation to Denison in 2010 for starting the Arizona 1 mine without obtaining Clean Air Act permits relating to radon emissions. Conservation groups and tribes are suing the Bureau of Land Management in federal court for allowing Denison to open the Arizona 1 mine in 2009 without updating 1980s-era mining plans and environmental reviews.

“Neither the state nor the feds – nor Denison – can ensure that mining won’t permanently damage Grand Canyon’s aquifers, and they can’t ensure such damage can be fixed if it does occur,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Those aren’t risks that should be taken.”

A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey report examining the impacts of uranium mining on Grand Canyon concluded that: “Uranium mining within the watershed may increase the amount of radioactive materials and heavy metals in the surface water and groundwater flowing into Grand Canyon National Park and the Colorado River, and deep mining activities may increase mobilization of uranium through the rock strata into the aquifers. In addition, waste rock and ore from mined areas may be transported away from the mines by wind and runoff.”

It found radiation levels and toxic substances were consistently higher on mined sites compared to unmined sites north of Grand Canyon; it also found uranium concentrations exceeding EPA drinking-water standards in 15 springs and five wells related to past mining.

Walter H. Begay
Environmental Scientist I / Environmental Engineer I
Salt River Project – NGS
Phone: 928-645-6411
Fax: 928-645-6234

Please submit public comments to oppose uranium mining in the Grand Canyon watershed

Scientific American and Scienceline Links to Forgotten People: Abandoned Uranium Mines: An 'Overwhelming Problem' in the Navajo Nation

Abandoned Uranium Mines: An ‘Overwhelming Problem’ in the Navajo Nation

Scienceline: An “Overwhelming Problem” in the Navajo Nation