Tag Archives: Associated Press

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex By FELICIA FONSECA: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to make a decision on whether to mandate pollution controls for a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo reservation next spring.But with so many competing interests, regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld in the EPA’s San Francisco office admits the agency won’t satisfy them all, and the differences likely will have to be ironed out in court. “To say it’s complex would be an understatement,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas and contributes significantly to the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard.

Blumenfeld said the EPA ultimately must decide what technology would best protect the air around the Grand Canyon and other pristine areas as part of its regional haze rule. Whether that means low nitrogen oxide burners already installed at the plant, more expensive scrubbers or something else won’t be disclosed until next year. The plant’s owners would have five years to comply once a final rule is issued.

“It is likely we will be scrutinized, so we are sticklers for following the rules,” he said.

The Navajo Generating Station is just one of three coal-fired power plants in the region that directly or indirectly affects the Navajo Nation. The EPA already has proposed pollution controls for the Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico, which are in clear view of one another. The latter is overseen by another EPA region.

The Department of Interior is conducting a study with a draft due out this month on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station that will show just how vast the interests are in the plant that began producing electricity in 1974. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is the majority owner of the plant. It is run by the Salt River Project and fed by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine.

The regional haze rule allows the EPA to look at factors other than air quality and cost effectiveness in determining regulations for power plants. Navajo Generating Station provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals and fulfills water rights settlements reached with American Indian tribes.

Blumenfeld said the agency needs specific information on what tribes, like the Gila River Indian Community, would expect to pay for water if that power no longer was available, or the figures from the Navajo and Hopi tribes on revenue losses should the power plant cease operation. SRP has said it could be forced to shutter the plant if it doesn’t secure lease agreements or it cannot afford more the expensive pollution controls.

“Until we have the detailed information about what those impacts are, we can’t do very much with that,” Blumenfeld said.

His office also has been criticized by some Republican members of Congress for what they say are unnecessary regulations that are hurting local economies. Blumenfeld said while critics believe states can take over the EPA’s duties, his agency ensures consistency across the board.

“Ultimately it’s an example of common-sense standards of helping the American public have a healthy life,” he said. “We recognize that we also need energy, but I think they are not in conflict.”

Andy Bessler

Southwest Organizing Representative
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy & Community Partnerships
www.sierraclub.org/ej/partnerships/tribal
www.sierraclub.org/coal
andy.bessler@sierrraclub.org
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell

10/17/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Native American leader Elouise Cobell dies at 65

FILE - In a Dec. 8, 2009 file photo Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Montana who was the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit regarding the U.S. government's trust management and accounting of over three hundred thousand individual American Indian trust accounts, left, is greeted by Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar following an announcement on the settlement of Cobell lawsuit at the Interior Department in Washington, A spokesman for Cobell says the Blackfeet woman who led a 15-year fight to force the U.S. government to account for more than a century of mismanaged Indian land royalties has died. She was 65. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta/File)

10/17/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Native American leader Elouise Cobell dies at 65 Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman who led a 15-year legal fight to force the U.S. government to account for more than a century of mismanaged Indian land royalties, died Sunday. She was 65. Cobell died at a Great Falls hospital of complications from cancer, spokesman Bill McAllister said.

Cobell was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in 1996 claiming the Interior Department had misspent, lost or stolen billions of dollars meant for Native American land trust account holders dating back to the 1880s.

After years of legal wrangling, the two sides in 2009 agreed to settle for $3.4 billion, the largest government class-action settlement in U.S. history. The beneficiaries are estimated to be about 500,000 people.

Asked what she wanted her legacy to be, Cobell said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press that she hoped she would inspire a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others and lift their community out of poverty.

“Maybe one of these days, they won’t even think about me. They’ll just keep going and say, `This is because I did it,'” Cobell said. “I never started this case with any intentions of being a hero. I just wanted this case to give justice to people that didn’t have it.”

President Barack Obama released a statement that said Cobell’s work provided a measure of justice to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, will give more people access to higher education and will give tribes more control over their own lands.

“Elouise helped to strengthen the government to government relationship with Indian Country, and our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family and all those who mourn her passing,” the statement read.

Cobell said she had heard stories since she was a child of how the government had shortchanged Native Americans with accounts for royalties from their land that was leased for resource development or farming.

She became outraged when she actually started digging into how much money the government had squandered that belonged people who were living in dire poverty on the Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana, she said.

She realized the amount mismanaged since the 1880s could be hundreds of billions of dollars. She said she tried for years working with two U.S. government administrations to resolve the dispute in the early 1990s, then decided to sue with four other Native Americans as plaintiffs when no progress was made.

The government dug in. Over the next 14 years, there were more than 3,600 court filings, 220 days of trial, 80 published court decisions and 10 appeals until the 2009 breakthrough.

Under the settlement, $1.4 billion would go to individual Indian account holders. Some $2 billion would be used by the government to buy up fractionated Indian lands from individual owners willing to sell, and then turn those lands over to tribes. Another $60 million would be used for a scholarship fund for young Indians.

Cobell spent the next year shuttling back and forth between her home in Browning to Washington, D.C., to lobby individual congressmen to approve the deal. She also logged thousands of miles traveling across Indian country to explain the deal to the potential beneficiaries.

She found unexpected resistance among some Native Americans. They questioned why it was so little, how much would be going to her and they attorneys or why it didn’t include a more complete accounting of what happened to the money.

Congress approved the deal and Obama signed it in December of 2010, a year after it was first proposed. A federal judge approved the settlement in June, though there are still appeals of the settlement pending.

Cobell discovered she had cancer just a few weeks before the judge’s approval in June. She traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for surgery.

Cobell was born with the Indian name Little Bird Woman, a great granddaughter of the famous leader Mountain Chief. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters on the Blackfeet reservation.

She graduated from Great Falls Business College and received honorary degrees from Montana State University, Rollins College and, earlier this year, Dartmouth College.

She was the Blackfeet nation’s treasurer for 13 years, and in 1987 helped found the first U.S. bank to be owned by a tribe, the Blackfeet National Bank, which is now the Native American Bank.

Cobell was the executive director of the nonprofit Native American Community Development Corp., which promotes sustainable economic development in Indian Country.

She won a $300,000 “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1997 and used most of the money to help fund the lawsuit.

Cobell lived on a ranch 30 miles south of Browning with her husband Alvin. Her only son, Turk, lives in Las Vegas with his wife Bobbie and their children Olivia and Gabriella.

She has a brother and two sisters who live in Browning and a third sister who lives in Seattle.

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining: By FELICIA FONSECA The Salt Lake Tribune, The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. • A group of Republican lawmakers is renewing an effort to open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new mining claims. Legislation announced Wednesday would prevent the Interior Department from extending a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims that expires in December. The group said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s intention to set aside the land for 20 years would eliminate hundreds of potential jobs, create a de-facto wilderness area and unravel decades of responsible resource development.

“At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups,” said Arizona Rep. David Schweikert. “This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon but a governmental land grab of economically fertile mining land.”

Salazar enacted a two-year ban in July 2009 but extended it by six months earlier this year to give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more time to study the economic and environmental effects of mining. Interior officials said Wednesday that any claims about jobs losses are false.

Should any of the land be withdrawn, mining companies would need to prove they have valid existing rights to those claims before mining could occur. According to the BLM’s draft environmental study, 11 mines could open over the next 20 years under Salazar’s proposal. Without a withdrawal, up to 30 mines could be developed. The difference in the number of jobs under the two scenarios would be 71, the BLM said.

Other proposals include withdrawing either 300,000 or 650,000 acres from any new claims. The final study is due out later this month.

“Interior is considering many factors in evaluating the issue, including the economic benefits of Grand Canyon National Park and the potential impacts on the park of expanding mining nearby,” said Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher.

Efforts in Congress to prohibit or allow mining on the same acreage have made little headway. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., added a rider to an Interior appropriations bill earlier this year to end the ban, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., introduced legislation last year to keep Interior from withdrawing any land. The two were joined by the rest of Arizona’s Republican delegation, and lawmakers from other Western states in supporting the latest effort.

In a letter to Salazar, the lawmakers said they share in a desire to protect the Grand Canyon from adverse environmental impacts but don’t believe shutting out mining companies is the answer, particularly in an area known for high-grade uranium ore. They said a federal law that designated wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon provides a good balance for mining and resource protection.

McCain said a full withdrawal of the 1 million acres of federal land “will raise significant questions for future wilderness bills if agreements to accommodate responsible land uses are neither genuine nor enduring.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has been on the opposite side of the lawmakers, advocating for a permanent withdrawal of the land from new mining claims. A bill he sponsored to do just that routinely has stalled.

“Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn’t going to fly with voters,” he said of the Republicans’ move. “The public overwhelmingly supported Secretary Salazar’s announcement during the comment period, and the public supports it today. This bill is a waste of taxpayers’ time, and I join them in looking forward to its defeat.”

10/11/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Hopis sue over alleged groundwater contamination

10/11/2011 AZ Daily Sun: Hopis sue over alleged groundwater contamination By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: TUBA CITY — The Hopi Tribe has sued the federal government over its management of an open dump in Tuba City. The lawsuit filed in tribal court alleges that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to ensure that waste at the 30-acre site did not contaminate the land or groundwater. The BIA operated the dump for nearly 50 years before it was closed in 1997, and part of it was covered up and fenced off. A BIA spokeswoman did not immediately return messages left Tuesday seeking comment. The lawsuit seeks enforcement of an order the tribe issued to the BIA in August demanding that the federal agency take immediate action to halt the spread of contamination. The dump is on Hopi and Navajo land.

10/5/2011 Associated Press: Navajo slush fund case awaits prosecutor

10/5/2011 Navajo slush fund case awaits prosecutor By Felicia Fonseca The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A civil case alleging that dozens of Navajo officials used tribal money as personal slush funds or failed to regulate the money won’t move forward for at least a month to allow for the appointment of a new prosecutor and to get that person up to speed. Alan Balaran spent more than a year investigating discretionary spending within the tribal government and allegations of illegal and unethical conduct by tribal employees, some of whom have left office. The expiration of his contract Friday means there is no prosecutor in the case, though tribal justice officials said one ideally would be named this week.

Tribal District Court Judge Carol Perry, who is overseeing the case, issued an order late last week putting the case on hold until Nov. 7. She says defense attorneys can submit pleadings but she won’t act on them until after then.

She also ordered the tribe’s Department of Justice to secure the special prosecutor’s office until a new person is appointed and can take control. Financial documents housed in a tribal building believed to be contaminated by mold will remain there until an incident management team comes up with a plan to preserve them that must be presented to Balaran’s replacement and approved by the court, Perry said.

Some of the 85 defendants, which include former and current Navajo lawmakers, attorneys general and the tribe’s controller, have said the civil complaint was a shoddy piece of investigative work. Tribal Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who is among the defendants, questioned Balaran’s motives and believed that the prosecutor was trying to disable the tribal government.

“We can now move forward with better confidence to resolve these vague civil suits and focus on our job of working for the Navajo people,” he said in a statement after a judicial panel decided against renewing Balaran’s contract last month.

Balaran said those charged clearly defrauded the tribe in the management and use of $36 million. The money should have gone to address significant hardships, help elderly Navajos on fixed incomes or to student scholarships, he said.

10/1/2011 Washington Examiner by The AP: Feds, companies reach deal on Wash. uranium mine

10/1/2011 Washington Examiner by The Associated Press: Feds, companies reach deal on Wash. uranium mine: The federal government has reached an agreement with two mining companies to clean up a uranium mine on the Spokane Indian Reservation. According to the Justice Department, costs of cleaning up the Midnite Mine Superfund Site will be $193 million. The 350-acre site was designated a potential hazard to people’s health in 2006 due to the presence of heavy metals and elevated levels of radioactivity.

The mining companies — Newmont USA Limited, and Dawn Mining Company, LLC — will cover most of the cleanup expenses and will reimburse the Environmental Protection Agency an additional $25 million. The U.S. Department of the Interior will contribute $54 million toward past and future cleanup activities.

The Midnite Mine operated from 1954 to 1964, and again from 1969 to 1981, resulting in numerous waste rock piles and two open mine pits.

Officials expect the project to take about a decade to complete.
Read more at the Washington Examiner

9/16/2011 Albuquerque Journal Online AP: PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal

9/16/2011 Albuquerque Journal Online: PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press: New Mexico’s largest electric utility is going to court in hopes of putting the brakes on a plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to trim emissions from a coal-fired power plant that serves more than 2 million customers throughout the Southwest. Public Service Company of New Mexico filed an appeal Friday in federal court. The company is seeking to stay a decision made in August in which the EPA rejected an attempt by the state and PNM to scale back an order for installing what they consider top-of-the-line emission-cutting technology at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.

The EPA gave PNM five years to install selective catalytic reduction technology to reduce haze-causing emissions.

PNM contends the technology is unnecessary, expensive and would result in a financial burden for customers.

Read more: ABQJournal Online » PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/09/16/abqnewsseeker/pnm-files-appeal-over-power-plant-proposal.html#ixzz1YAdWgMfB
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Read more: ABQJournal Online » PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement

8/28/2011 Washington Examiner: Navajos focus on Little Colorado River settlement By: FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press: The Navajo Nation, unwilling to settle its claims to the Colorado River without a pipeline to deliver much-needed water to its residents, now is focusing on rights to water from one of the river’s tributaries. Negotiators on a northern Arizona water rights settlement have removed from the deal a $515 million pipeline that would have delivered water to the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Even with the lower cost, however, it remains uncertain when the revised settlement might be introduced in Congress. Navajo lawmakers approved a version of the settlement last year. That version included the pipeline to send 11,000 acre-feet of Colorado River from Lake Powell to a handful of Navajo communities and about 4,000 acre-feet of water a year to the Hopi reservation.

But Republican Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who has shepherded key American Indian water rights deals through Congress, later said it was too costly and asked the negotiators to revise it.

Kyl’s office declined to comment on the revised settlement that negotiators sent him in June because it’s not final. But in a letter to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Kyl said the revised document marks only the next phase of conversation and that “it is possible that those costs will have to be further reduced.”

“Because of the estimated cost associated with a main-stem settlement, the parties pulled back and focused simply on a Little Colorado River settlement,” said Tom Whitmer, a water resource manager and tribal liaison for the state water department. “The federal government’s budget is not in the most healthy state. Whenever you start talking about settlements, it’s also about the cost of the infrastructure to get the water to the area it’s needed.”

Under the revised settlement, the Navajo Nation still would get any unclaimed flows from the Little Colorado River and nearly unlimited access to two aquifers beneath the reservation. It also would settle claims from the Hopi Tribe, which did not follow the Navajos’ footsteps in approving the settlement last year.

“I think we’ve gotten some things in there we feel good about,” said Hopi Chairman Le Roy Shingoitewa. “Whether or not they remain is really something the parties all have to agree to.”

Both the Navajo and Hopi are party to a case to adjudicate rights to the Little Colorado River, which has been on hold to allow for settlement discussions. Aside from Zuni Pueblo, no other Arizona tribe has acquired rights to the river, Whitmer said.

The revised settlement was revealed in a separate federal court case earlier this month in which the Navajo Nation sued to assert its rights to the Colorado River. The negotiators said in a status report that they did not expect any settlement to be approved by Congress until late next year.

They also outlined further concerns by Kyl, including the future of the Navajo Generating Station that provides power to deliver water through a series of canals to 80 percent of the state’s population and ensures that American Indian water rights settlements are met.

Kyl had asked negotiators for the tribes and 30 other entities to try to lower the $800 million cost of the settlement so that he could introduce legislation well ahead of his planned retirement.

Navajo water rights attorney Stanley Pollack said the settlement was structured so that the pipeline could be removed if necessary and that he would not bring it before tribal lawmakers without Kyl’s blessing.

Although the pipeline has been dropped from the settlement, neither the Navajo Nation nor the Hopi Tribe has waived rights to water from the Colorado River.

The revised settlement would provide the delivery of some 6,400 acre-feet of Colorado River water to Navajo communities in Arizona, along the New Mexico border. The water was reserved for a possible Navajo water rights settlement with the state of Arizona as part of a historic deal with Arizona tribes in 2004. The water would be delivered through the Navajo-Gallup pipeline authorized by the Navajo Nation’s water agreement with New Mexico in 2009.

The Arizona settlement for the lower Colorado River basin had been in negotiation for more than a decade. Tribal officials say they’ll now have to come up with other ways to provide water in areas where Navajos commonly drive long distances to haul water for themselves and their livestock. Some smaller projects are in the works.

Ray Yazzie Begay, 45, had high hopes for a pipeline that would deliver water to his community in Cameron. Much of the water there has a bitter taste, he said, and is good only for showering and livestock feeding. He recently was filling up a 210-gallon water tank outside the Cameron Trading Post that was destined for his sheep, cattle and horses a few miles away.

A pipeline “would bring a lot of good things to the community,” he said. “A lot of us live out there in the back areas.”

Navajo lawmaker Duane Tsinigine said the need for water is especially prevalent on the western side of the reservation, where Navajos were prevented from making any improvements to their home or land for decades because of a land dispute with the Hopi Tribe. The construction ban has been lifted but many in the community are still awaiting basic needs, he said.

“Maybe we can file for a separate settlement, which if we filed we might not see in this lifetime,” he said.

http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/2011/08/navajos-focus-little-colorado-river-settlement-0#.Tlrg5qffoZw.email#ixzz1WO8qKBu2Read more at the Washington Examiner: