Monthly Archives: November 2011

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11/10/2011 Durango Herald: Wildcat’s mining permit approved

11/10/2011 Durango Herald: Wildcat’s mining permit approved – Initial access to mines allowed only for water sampling, cleanup surveys By Joe Hanel Herald Staff Writer: DENVER – State regulators approved a permit for a controversial gold mine in La Plata Canyon on Wednesday, but it comes with a long list of conditions and does not allow mining until the company has cleaned up the messes it made. Since Wildcat Mining Corp. took over historic mines near the hamlet of Mayday in 2006, it has built an illegal road, blasted two mine portals and moved a mill into one of the mines, all without a permit. All three portals into the mine have collapsed either completely or partially, endangering a road above. Water is leaking from the mine. Engineers and neighbors also have concerns about the stability of the company’s illegal road, which descends from County Road 124 across the La Plata River.

Regulators with the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety reasoned that the only way they could ensure a cleanup was to get the mines and road a new permit, which the governor-appointed Mined Land Reclamation Board approved unanimously Wednesday.

Board members stressed that the permit initially will allow access to the mines only for water sampling and other surveys needed to begin cleanup work. Without a permit, Wildcat officials are not supposed to enter the mines for any reason.

“The permit doesn’t authorize any mining or any milling,” said MLRB member Bob Randall.

Elizabeth Paranhos, who represents environmental interests on the board, said she was comfortable with plans to approve a permit with many conditions.

“What’s happening now is really a matter of data gathering without doing any further mining or milling,” Paranhos said.

Wildcat Mining also said Wednesday’s decision is a step forward.

“The Mined Land Reclamation Board’s unanimous vote today to accept the recommendation by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety for approval with conditions for the May Day Idaho Mine Complex will allow Wildcat Mining to move forward in a measured fashion to resolve existing issues on the project site,” Randall Oser, Wildcat Mining president, said in an email. “We are pleased with DRMS’s recommendations and the Board’s work to ensure that all stakeholders have been informed and involved.”

But the assurances were not enough for several La Plata Canyon residents who testified by phone against approval of the permit.

“The division has never given a permit of this type. I don’t think now is the time to start, especially with this operator,” said Scott Collignon, a longtime critic who lives across the river from the mine.

Indeed, Wally Erickson of the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety said he doubted the state has ever approved a permit with such a long list of conditions.

Robert Abshire, a Native American student at Fort Lewis College, testified by phone from a room he said was filled with 30 fellow Native students.

The mine sits on a sacred mountain for the Navajo Nation, and it cannot be worked on without violating sacred space and possibly federal laws, Abshire said.

Wildcat lawyer Penfield Tate said the mine has been blessed by Native Americans in the past, and the company has a medicine man on retainer in case people think it needs another ceremony.

Company officials say they have a new team in place and blamed former owner Mike Clements for the company’s previous problems.

Roger Tichenor, Wildcat’s new CEO, said he didn’t appreciate the depth of the problems when he invested in Wildcat. He decided to take control of the company and bring in experts to repair the damage.

“We’re here to do things right. We’re here to make it right and run a profitable business,” Tichenor said.

But neighbor Phil Vigil isn’t convinced.

“A new owner really doesn’t make for a new operation,” Vigil said, testifying by phone.

The company will have to make a series of applications to amend the permit before it can begin mining, Erickson said.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected 'Across Europe'

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected ‘Across Europe’ by Lee Ferran: The hunt is on for the source of low level radiation detected in the atmosphere “across Europe” over the past weeks, nuclear officials said today. Trace amounts of iodine-131, a type of radiation created during the operation of nuclear reactors or in the detonation of a nuclear weapon, were detected as early as three weeks ago by Austrian authorities and then two weeks ago by the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety. Today the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement revealing similar detections had been made “in other locations across Europe.”

The IAEA said the current levels of iodine-131 are far too low to warrant a public health risk, but the agency still does not know the origin of the apparent leak and an official with the agency would not say where else it has been detected. Considering iodine-131 has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days, continued detection means the leak occurred over a period of several days at least and is possibly ongoing.

The IAEA said it does not believe the radiation was left over from the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March and the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety said it was unlikely to have been caused by an incident at any nuclear plant’s core. A meltdown there, the Czech agency said, would have released several other radioactive isotopes in addition to iodine-131.

The IAEA has been unable to determine from which country the radiation is emanating, and both Czech and Austrian officials said it was unlikely their countries were the source. Austrian officials said in a statement that a study of the dispersal cloud indicated the radiation is most likely coming from somewhere in southeastern Europe.

In addition to nuclear plants, iodine-131 is used in many hospitals and by radiopharmacutical manufacturers as it can be used to help treat thyroid problems in small doses.

“Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that… iodine-131 will escape into the environment,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

Fukushima: First visit of journalists since evacuation + Amazing photos of damaged reactor buildings

Fukushima: First visit of journalists since evacuation + Amazing photos of damaged reactor buildings from Gordon Edwards <ccnr@web.ca>: Background: These new photos show extensive structural damage — to Units 3 and 4 in particular. All of this damage was self-inflicted by the reactors overheating and producing hydrogen gas which exploded with great force.  None of the visible damage was caused directly by the earthquake or the tsunami. The structural damage, core melting, spent fuel fires, and radioactive releases are all the result of a prolonged power blackout which prevented the heat from the irradiated fuel in the reactor cores and the spent fuel bays from being removed.  Similar events could occur in any commercial nuclear power plant if there were no electrical power for a period of days. Go to the following URL to see the photos.  A caption appears below each photograph. http://cryptome.org/eyeball/daiichi-111211/daiichi-111211.htm


Journal of Folklore Research An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology-Bitter Water: Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute

Journal of Folklore Research An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology – Bitter Water: Diné Oral Histories of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Edited by Malcolm D. Benally. 2011. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 102 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8165-2898-1 (soft cover).  Reviewed by Charlotte Frisbie, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville: [Review length: 1732 words • Review posted on November 9, 2011]  This extremely important volume makes numerous contributions: for the first time, it presents in both Navajo and English, oral histories or personal narratives of four women from the Black Mesa area, Arizona, women living within and near the HPL or Hopi Partitioned Land area who were/are directly involved in activism opposing the 1974 so-called Navajo Hopi Land Settlement Act, or PL 93-531.

The women and their home communities include: Mae Tso, Mosquito Springs; Roberta Blackgoat (who died in 2000), Thin Rock Mesa; Pauline Whitesinger, Big Mountain; and Ruth Benally, a distant relative of Benally’s, also from Big Mountain. While there are important academic studies of the dispute, the 1974 law authorizing the partition of Navajo and Hopi lands, and its resulting disasters—such as works by Brugge, Churchill, Kammer, and Redhouse, besides a 1993 popular book by Benedek, a 1986 movie, “Broken Rainbow,” and the Pulitzer prize-winning investigative article, “The Black Mesa Syndrome: Indian Lands, Indian Gold,” by Judith Nies (Orion, summer, 1998)—until this publication, we lacked testimonies and in-depth perspectives from Navajos living in the affected area. Malcolm Benally, a Navajo from Forest Lake, was the ideal person to pursue this project, having been born three years before the 1974 act and raised in Forest Lake, another community on partitioned land. During college at Northern Arizona University, in 1994 he began to work with Into the Mud Productions. When they received a grant in October, 1998, from a fund aimed at raising public consciousness about human rights abuses and restrictions of civil liberties, Benally was hired to work with Mary Fish, the producer and photographer, to produce a sixty-minute documentary, Bitter Water: Diné Chronicles of Resistance.

Thus, in the late 1990s, he videorecorded, using a digital audiotape and Hi-8 documentary video camera, over twenty-five hours of personal testimonies and oral histories from Navajo elders affected by the partition of Navajo and Hopi Lands. The plan was to produce the documentary from the interview footage and thus tell the world about the cultural genocide and human rights violations continually occurring in Arizona because of PL 93-53. However, once the interviews were completed, the funding disappeared, technology changed, and digital format arrived. Wanting to share the women’s stories, educate the public about the unnecessary pain, trauma, and suffering continually being caused by relocation, and call international attention to the gross violation of human rights that continues because of this law, yes, in the United States and in Arizona, Benally finally decided to release some of the narratives in book format. He still plans to complete the documentary, his “work in progress,” and he still has misgivings about print format because most of the project’s participants are elderly, monolingual Navajos and most have already had too many horrendous experiences with documents.

After deciding to move ahead in print, Benally first transcribed the audio track, writing the women’s narratives in literal Navajo; then he did numerous re-listenings to find a way of translating their words that would catch their eloquent ways of speaking and expressing themselves. Anyone familiar with the challenges of doing translations will understand his labors of love during this process. Among the contributions made by this volume is the bilingual presentation of all four monologues as well as the section entitled “Sheep is Life.” The content offers a very current look at oral traditions among Navajos, and how the language itself is being used in the contemporary world. Word choices, and ways of speaking and telling stories are only two of the countless elements that will be of interest to linguists and folklorists in this volume; happily, the formatting facilitates comparisons of the spoken Navajo and English translations, and endnotes occasionally offer additional insights about specific words, phrases, translation issues, and/or multiple interpretations. Additionally, perhaps because of ethnopoetics, Benally occasionally uses italics to show what a speaker was emphasizing, or indicates with parentheses that a statement was accompanied by a smile or laugh. Through the women’s personal testimonies, one feels the deep pain and trauma caused by relocation, the prevailing sense of loss—loss of land, animals, family and friends, language, culture, traditions, and the old ways. But simultaneously, one also senses the bravery, strength, and courage expressed daily by these women and their families as they try to deal with the shameful forced removal, relocation, and cultural genocide caused by this misguided legislation.

The volume opens with a contextualizing foreword by Navajo historian, Jennifer Nez Denetdale; Benally’s preface, which explains particulars of the publication, is followed by a chronology of the shameful relocation process with its expired deadlines, governmental and legal maneuvers, the 4/18/2001 Supreme Court dismissal of the class-action lawsuit, Manybeads et al. v. United States, and the continuing horrors. The English text of “The Travel Song” as sung by Carol Blackhorse, Benally’s grandmother, follows, preceding the author’s introduction, which includes a needed map, and the first two of the volume’s stunning twenty-one black and white photographs by Mary Fish. Chapters 1–4 present the four personal testimonies first in Navajo and then in English, with photographs positioned only in the English-language sections, except for one on page 8.

Roberta Blackgoat’s narrative is followed by a reprint of a biographical note (37-38) written for the Navajo Times (4/25/2002) by reporter Marley Shebala after Blackgoat’s passing. A section entitled “Sheep is Life” (Chapter 5, pages 62-83) follows the four narratives, again in both Navajo and English, being constructed from vignettes provided by nine individuals, eight women and one man: Carol Blackhorse, Emma Bahe, and Katherine Smith provide multiple vignettes, while single contributions are quoted from Oscar Whitehair, Maize Begay, Mary Lou Benale, Elvira Horseherder, Pauline Whitesinger, and Manygoats Daughter. While photographs of only four of these nine individuals are included in this section, again in the English translation portions, traditional life on the land with the sheep is thoroughly documented by Fish’s outstanding pictures; the chapter or community residence of each contributor is identified in the endnotes. A poem, “The Mutton Hunger,” by the author, follows “Sheep is Life,” and then, in an epilogue, Benally updates events through the summer of 2010, identifying nonprofit advocacy groups and a new lawsuit. The website for the Black Mesa Indigenous Support group which provides current information about the people who remain on the HPL, was given earlier, in the preface (xv) as www.blackmesais.org.

A very important essay, “Natural Law and Navajo Religion/Way of Life,” coauthored by Roman Bitsuie and Kenja Hassan, follows as an appendix, and predictably precedes endnotes, bibliography, and an index. Bitsuie, the executive director of the Navajo Hopi Land Commission Office, reportedly gave “Natural Law . . .” as testimony on 6/20/2006 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources during hearings on the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Amendments of 2005; however, Benally (xvi), indicates that Hassan, a student from Japan who lived with a family in the HPL and became a friend of Bitsuie’s, also deserves coauthorship credit. I wish the entire book had been printed bilingually, so that the foreword, preface, introduction, poetry, epilogue, and this important appendix essay could have been presented in Navajo too, as were the four narratives and “Sheep is Life.”

The four narratives are individually powerful, as are their supporting photographs. While only one touches on persecution and being arrested for activism, the voices in “Sheep is Life” provide more references to confrontations with the law, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and rangers, and going to jail. Throughout the four personal histories, there is a shared tone of sadness and worry about loss, loss of everything from the old ways, the land, and the sheep, to the Navajo language, traditions, and culture. The women worry about their grandchildren and the need to teach them their history, traditions, and beliefs, their Navajo language, and traditional ways to use and care for the land. There are many references to the need for discipline in child rearing and the importance of Blessingway. Throughout the thinking about everything being gone—the animals, the people, the old ways—it is clear that most devastating is the loss of human rights.

Only a few criticisms are warranted. While it is not surprising to have different, yet correct, ways of translating a given Navajo word, there are places in the text when Navajo words and/or expressions are left untranslated, without explanation. Examples can be found on pages 14, 21, 23, 50, 51, 68. In Mae Tso’s narrative, there are two endnotes numbered 16, on pages 13 and 14 in the Navajo part, but only one number 16 on page 21, in the translation and in the endnotes on page 96. There is an extra line of space in the Navajo text on page 55, but not in the translation on page 58. Sometimes nonverbal behaviors such as smiles are indicated in one place but not in translation; likewise, the use of italics for emphasis is not always the same when comparing the Navajo and the translation. In places (see page 77 for one example) where the translation is given as “ceremony basket,” in my opinion “ceremonial basket” would have been better. Other errors: on page 10, the third note at the bottom of the page, third line, word 7 should say 1986 instead of the Navajo printed there. Page 11 includes two bottom-of-the-page notes, neither of which appears in the translation on pages 18–19. Both of these are important and should have been included. The second discusses the translation of “an endangered word,” of interest by itself but also because Benally refers to the “archaic terms” the women often used in their monologues, which he came to enjoy as a nice change from the boarding school Navajo his parents speak. One example of Navajo slang is noted, page 67. On page 35, there is a typo in line 13 from the bottom of the page. On page 97, note 7, line 2, the size of the Council needs to be changed since it has now been reduced from eighty-six to twenty-four. Two additions to the bibliography would be helpful: Judith Nies’ 1998 article mentioned above, and the article about this book done by reporter Cindy Yurth for the Navajo Times (March 3, 2011: A-7), “New Book Gives Voice to Land Dispute Victims.” Yurth’s article is based on conversations with Benally which include further information about the author, the project, and the book which then was due to emerge in May.

11/11/2011 The Phoenix Sun: Congressmen Call for Hearing on the True Costs of Coal

11/11/2011 The Phoenix Sun: Congressmen Call for Hearing on the True Costs of Coal Written by Osha Gray Davidson: Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman (CA) and Bobby Rush (IL) today called on Republican committee chairs to hold hearings on the full economic costs of coal-fired power plants. The key word here is, of course, full. Big Coal and its supporters in Congress often use the club of “expensive energy” to beat up on renewable sources such as solar power and wind. But, as Waxman and Rush state in their request letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), a new study “finds that the economic costs of air pollution from coal-fired … power plants outweigh the economic value these sources add to the economy.” The letter was also addressed to the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

The study, Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy, determined that economic damages caused by coal-fired power plants outweighed benefits by up to 5.6 times.

Coal-fired electrical generation only seems cheap because most of the costs don’t appear on the power bill. Instead, the full cost of coal is paid by ordinary Americans in increased health care and shortened life spans, by businesses in lost work days due to respiratory and heart-related illnesses, and by the agriculture industry in lower crop yields due to climate change.

The new study appears in the latest issue of the American Economic Review, and was co-authored by economists at Middlebury College and Yale University.

For more on the healthcare costs of coal-fired power plants, see the excellent 2010 study, The Toll From Coal, published by the Clean Air Task Force.

The True Cost of Coal

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says

11/10/2011 Navajo Times: Funds available for Freeze families, panel says By Bill Donovan, Special to the Times. WINDOW ROCK: The Navajo-Hopi Land Commission reports that it has nearly $4 million available to start helping Navajo families in the former Bennett Freeze area. “This is the latest funding for the recovery of the area,” the NHLC office stated in a recent report to the Navajo Nation Council. The money is from an escrow account. For 30 years, 1966 to 1996, Navajo families in the Bennett Freeze area were prohibited from making improvements to their homes because of federal restrictions put in place at the behest of the Hopi Tribe, which claimed prior rights to the land.

Meanwhile, land-use payments were held in escrow. In 2010, following a federal settlement lifting the Freeze, some $6.3 million was released to the Navajo Nation to benefit Navajos still residing there.

The land commission hasn’t yet approved the allocation of these funds, prompting the emergence of The Forgotten People, a grassroots group formed to demand an accounting of money spent and to push for needed improvements to the area.

The report to the Council said some $3.9 million of that $6 million has now been allocated to improve or replace dilapidated homes.

The commission also reported that lease fees from the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which is building the Twin Arrows Resort Casino on land acquired under the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute agreement, are beginning to roll in.

Commission officials said the land had been purchased for about $7 million with the commission and the casino paying half of the cost. The land was then taken into ownership by the commission and the casino agreed to make annual payments to the commission for use of the land.

The first payment of $375,000 was made in June, said Raymond Maxx, director of the NHLC office.

11/10/2011 Blog posting by Robert Sabie, Jr. FP uranium proximity map winner EPA apps for the environment challenge

11/10/2011 Blog Posting by Robert Sabie, Jr.: First off, I want to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with The Forgotten People. I was introduced to Marsha Monestersky, Program Director of Forgotten People during a phone conference back in January of 2011 by my professor, Troy Abel, whom Marsha had met at an EPA environmental justice forum in Washington D.C. That was my first time of hearing of the many issues that the Navajo people faced, especially in the Tuba City/Cameron area. I felt moved by the stories that Marsha told me.

In June of 2011, Dr. Abel and I made a short trip to the Navajo Nation. Like no other place I have visited, the landscape of the Navajo Nation is both unique and beautiful. We were invited to meet several families and appreciated being welcome into their homes. This was also my first experience eating fry bread which I found delicious, although my stomach didn’t know quite what to think about it. We met Ronald Tohannie, who has been a leader in using a GPS unit in mapping various items around the area. Ronald gave us a tour of the water hauling routes and delivery points. We also were able to attend one of the water deliveries and witness how difficult obtaining safe drinking water was for many families. On our last evening in the area we attended a community planning meeting at James Peshlakai’s home in Cameron. I could tell that James was a great teacher by his ability to illustrate his points by means of story telling. Meeting some of the families was the most important aspect of taking on this project.

After completing the project, Dr. Abel suggested at the last minute that I enter my map in an EPA contest. I had no idea that this project would take me to Washington D.C. This past week Dr. Abel and I spent two days at the Apps for the Environment forum in Washington D.C. The morning that we left D.C. I was honored by being given the opportunity to speak in front of several important people from the EPA. They wanted me to speak about the technology of the online map. Although I highlighted some of the features of the online map, I chose to focus on telling a story. I told the story of Marsha and Don Yellowman meeting Dr. Abel at the environmental justice forum. I spoke of our trip to Cameron and meeting people without access to safe drinking water. I told them that they cannot solve problems with technology in offices in Washington D.C. I told them that in order for technology to help solve problems, they need to empower communities with the knowledge and ability to use that technology.

Moving forward, I think that this project may provide momentum for The Forgotten People. Being an outsider, I realize that I only have a basic understanding of what the Navajo people need. My suggestion is that The Forgotten People use my project as a stepping stone to ask more specific questions. When Marsha met Dr. Abel at the environmental justice conference she asked, “Who can help us with mapping?” That question has been answered. The next questions could be how can this map help your community and what would make the map more useful?

The other night I sent an email to Marsha and in that email I told her that “although I am being recognized for my mapping abilities, the greatest reward is knowing that more awareness is being raised about the issues faced by the communities of the Navajo Nation and that the people are not forgotten.” Thank you again and I look forward to continuing to contribute in your fight for environmental justice.

Sincerely,
Robert Sabie, Jr.

11/8/2011 FP congratulates Robert Sabie, WWU – EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge

Forgotten People congratulates Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University.  11/8/2011 EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues.  Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts.

“Innovators from across the country have used information to help people protect our health and the environment,” said Malcolm Jackson, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “The winners of the Apps for the Environment challenge demonstrate that it’s possible to transform data from EPA and elsewhere into applications that people can use.”

The five winners are:

·      Winner, Best Overall App: Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of EcoHatchery, Milwaukee, Wis.

  • Runner Up, Best Overall App: Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet, Shelburne, Vt.
  • Winner, Best Student App: EarthFriend by Ali Hasan and Will Fry of Differential Apps and Fry Development Company, Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, N.C. and J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C.
  • Runner Up, Best Student App: Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
  • Popular Choice Award: CG Search by Suresh Ganesan of Cognizant Technology Solutions, South Plainfield, N.J.

Winners will demonstrate their submissions at the Apps for the Environment forum today in Arlington, Va. The forum will include panels on business, technology, and government initiatives, breakout sessions by EPA’s program offices, upcoming developer challenges and future directions about environmental applications.

All contestants will retain intellectual property rights over their submissions, though winners agree that their submissions will be available on the EPA website for free use and download by the public for a period of one year following the announcement of the winners.

More information about the winners and other submissions: http://appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov/submissions

More information about EPA’s Apps for the Environment forum: http://www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html

CONTACT:

Latisha Petteway (News Media Only)

petteway.latisha@epa.gov

202-564-3191

202-564-4355


You can view or update your subscriptions or e-mail address at any time on your Subscriber Preferences Page. All you will need is your e-mail address. If you have any questions or problems e-mail support@govdelivery.com for assistance.

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

11/6/2011 New York Times: Here Comes the Sun

11/6/2011 NY Times: Here Comes the Sun By OP-ED COLUMNIST PAUL KRUGMAN: For decades the story of technology has been dominated, in the popular mind and to a large extent in reality, by computing and the things you can do with it. Moore’s Law — in which the price of computing power falls roughly 50 percent every 18 months — has powered an ever-expanding range of applications, from faxes to Facebook. Our mastery of the material world, on the other hand, has advanced much more slowly. The sources of energy, the way we move stuff around, are much the same as they were a generation ago.

But that may be about to change. We are, or at least we should be, on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power. That’s right, solar power.

If that surprises you, if you still think of solar power as some kind of hippie fantasy, blame our fossilized political system, in which fossil fuel producers have both powerful political allies and a powerful propaganda machine that denigrates alternatives.

Speaking of propaganda: Before I get to solar, let’s talk briefly about hydraulic fracturing, a k a fracking.

Fracking — injecting high-pressure fluid into rocks deep underground, inducing the release of fossil fuels — is an impressive technology. But it’s also a technology that imposes large costs on the public. We know that it produces toxic (and radioactive) wastewater that contaminates drinking water; there is reason to suspect, despite industry denials, that it also contaminates groundwater; and the heavy trucking required for fracking inflicts major damage on roads.

Economics 101 tells us that an industry imposing large costs on third parties should be required to “internalize” those costs — that is, to pay for the damage it inflicts, treating that damage as a cost of production. Fracking might still be worth doing given those costs. But no industry should be held harmless from its impacts on the environment and the nation’s infrastructure.

Yet what the industry and its defenders demand is, of course, precisely that it be let off the hook for the damage it causes. Why? Because we need that energy! For example, the industry-backed organization energyfromshale.org declares that “there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all.”

So it’s worth pointing out that special treatment for fracking makes a mockery of free-market principles. Pro-fracking politicians claim to be against subsidies, yet letting an industry impose costs without paying compensation is in effect a huge subsidy. They say they oppose having the government “pick winners,” yet they demand special treatment for this industry precisely because they claim it will be a winner.

And now for something completely different: the success story you haven’t heard about.

These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal.

And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it’s likely that we would already have passed that tipping point.

But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach?

Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar.

So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in.

11/7/2011 Forgotten People MEDIA RELEASE: Peabody Kayenta mine permit renewal – Dooda (No)

Forgotten People MEDIA RELEASE: Peabody Kayenta mine permit renewal – Dooda (No): Black Mesa, AZ-On November 3, 2011, Forgotten People through their attorney Mick Harrison, Esq. with assistance from GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC joined Black Mesa Water Coalition, Diné C.A.R.E., To Nizhoni Ani, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club in submitting comments to oppose the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) decision to approve a controversial mine permit renewal for Peabody Coal Company’s Kayenta mine.

OSM’s Environmental Assessment (EA) improperly discounts and ignores the substantial adverse impacts on the traditional Dine’ that result from Peabody’s mining activities including destruction of sacred sites and contamination of air and water and adverse health effects to humans and animals. Norris Nez (Hathalie) stated: “In Black Mesa area there were many key sites where offerings were given and Peabody has destroyed these sites. That is why the prayers or ceremonies that were conducted are lost. It is because the land is destroyed.” Glenna Begay stated: “To protect and preserve endangered historic, cultural and sacred sites in and adjacent to Peabody’s lease area, Forgotten People submitted ‘Homeland’, a GIS interactive mapping project that shows continuous occupancy since before the creation of the Navajo and Hopi Tribes and before the Long Walk to Fort Sumner in 1864.”

The EA does not address the severe impacts on the families to be (apparently forcibly and involuntarily) relocated. Glenna Begay stated: “How can the EA say the residents of the four occupied houses have not indicated that they have concerns about relocation and impacts on traditional cultural resources. Contrary to the EA some of the families who are to be relocated refuse. The families that objected to relocation should have been properly identified and quoted on their opposition in the EA.“ Norris Nez stated, “If more mining takes place, more people will be forced to relocate. Relocation is death to our people and our future.”

Experts have testified about relocation effects, like Dr. Thayer Scudder from Cal Tech University who says, relocation= death, i.e., that relocated people die. Yet there is no meaningful assessment in the EA of the real, huge and acknowledged effects of mining and subsequent relocation on the lives of the Forgotten People.

Peabody’s mining activities have contaminated the locally-owned water sources, and local water sources are capped, there is no water left to drink, and the Forgotten People are now dependent on the Peabody water supply. “The drinking water crisis is further exacerbated by the recent (September 2011) discovery of uranium and arsenic contaminated wells on the Hopi Partition Land (HPL),” stated Karyn Moskowitz, MBA of GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC.

John Benally, Big Mountain stated: “People living in the vicinity of Peabody do not have adequate water to drink, are hauling their water over great distances, and in some areas are drinking uranium and arsenic contaminated water. Peabody must return use of the wells that rely on the Navajo Aquifer to the Forgotten People so people within the western Navajo Nation do not have to drink contaminated water. Use of the Navajo Aquifer to support mining activities must stop.”

In the over 300 page EA, there is no mention of arsenic and no study of the impacts this contaminated water has had on residents and will have on the future of the Forgotten People. The discovery of these highly poisonous compounds in people’s drinking water should have immediately shut down any plans for continued mining in order to assess where the contamination is coming from and what the connection is between Peabody Coal’s mining and the discovery of this uranium and arsenic contamination. Yet the EA does not study the impact that this situation has on the Forgotten People. Clean water is a basic human right.

The EA mistakenly dismisses the removal of millions of tons of coal via surface mining as not significant in terms of minerals and geologic impacts including impacts on fossils. The EA also incorrectly dismisses the potential for material damage to the N aquifer from Peabody activities.

“The EA does not take the health and environmental threats from coal dust releases seriously and fails to assess or identify mitigation options for the significant adverse health effects reported by residents as a result of Peabody mining activities,” stated Christine Glaser, Ph.D. of GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC. The EA is defective because it does not include or recommend a real study of the cumulative, long-term health effects of this coal dust on the Forgotten People, including chronic illness and death from Black Lung disease.

Caroline Tohannie, Black Mesa stated: “The EA failed to address the real dangers of using an unpermitted railroad to transport coal from Kayenta mine to the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). Insufficient barrier arms and warning lights have already resulted in the death of people and livestock.”

Attorney Harrison stated: “The EA makes scientific conclusions contrary to prevailing science and contrary to the federal environmental agencies’ own stated positions and conclusions regarding climate change. The EA blatantly violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by considering only the climate change impacts of the Peabody mining alone without assessing the cumulative impacts of coal mining and of the burning of the Peabody coal in the NGS together with burning of other coal in other coal fired power plants. Coal mining and coal combustion collectively have significant adverse impacts on climate change. Given the severity of the harm currently threatened from climate change, a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), not just an EA, is required.”

On January 5, 2010, Administrative Law Judge Robert Holt issued an order vacating Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM’s) approval of Peabody Coal Company’s proposed permit modification for a life-of-mine permit for the Black Mesa complex based on violations of NEPA. The Judge also found OSM failed to develop and consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed action.

The current OSM Environmental Assessment, Finding Of No Significant Impact, and Kayenta Mine permit renewal decision involve the same type of NEPA violation involving failure to identify, develop, and assess reasonable alternatives. Only two alternatives were developed: the mine alternative and the no mine alternative. Other alternatives could have and should have been assessed including no mining combined with development of alternative energy facilities such as solar and wind.

The Forgotten People hope OSM will consider all the comments received and make the right decision, which would be to deny renewal of the Kayenta Mine permit. Peabody Dooda (No). For further information, please contact Attorney Mick Harrison at (812) 361-6220 or Forgotten People at (928) 401-1777.

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