Tag Archives: Congress

One More Reason to Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline: Questions about State Department Handling of Review

10/28/2011 Frances Beinecke’s Blog: One More Reason to Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline: Questions about State Department Handling of Review: Today I joined several environmental leaders in calling for the State Department to conduct an investigation into the department’s handling of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. More than a dozen members of Congress also requested an inquiry into potential conflicts of interest.

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth examined relevant documents and found that TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, was allowed to screen the companies bidding to do the project’s environmental impact study; the company that was chosen listed TransCanada as a “major client.” It also does business for many of the same oil companies that stand to benefit from the pipeline.

Meanwhile, State Department officials coached TransCanada on messaging—and seemed to be in cahoots with them on skirting safety protections.  From the start, they have shown a disposition towards the pipeline proponents at the expense of public – exemplified by the Secretary’s comments a year ago that she was “inclined” to approve it.

The Keystone XL pipeline is a massive, destructive proposal and the more we learn about it, the more objections we have. Now those concerned about integrity in government are joining the many other Americans opposed to this dangerous project.

Citizens alarmed by climate change do not want the Keystone XL pipeline to lock America into decades of one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet.

Farmers, ranchers, and businesspeople living along Keystone XL’s route do not want to put their communities, rangeland, and water supply at risk of pipeline eruptions.

And national security experts are speaking out about the danger of deepening America’s fossil fuel addiction with tar sands oil. Retired Army Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson wrote a powerful piece in The Hill that the pipeline the “will comfort our enemies.” He refutes TransCanada’s claims that the pipeline will enhance America’s national security and says:

This pipeline would move dirty oil from Canada to refineries in Texas and would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight.

Whose assessment of national security would you believe: The foreign oil company that stands to profit by exporting tar sands oil to Asia and Europe? Or the American general who served as the military’s senior logistician in Iraq in 2006 and 2007?

The drumbeat of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is growing louder and louder. Citizens are asking their elected officials about it at town hall meetings, and President Obama has been met with protests and questions from a range of constituents – from high donors to students as he travels the country.

You can make your protest heard by signing up for the November 6 event outside the White House here or by sending a message President Obama at www.StopTar.org.

9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues

Rose Chewing Lane from Boadaway/Gap drank water from eight of these 55-gallon barrels for several years9/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Residents suffer while tribes debate water issues By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Members of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission and the Hopi Tribe will meet next week to discuss water issues brought up by Navajos residing on Hopi Partitioned Land who refused to leave their homes after Congress partitioned the disputed lands in 1974 and forced the relocation of Navajo and Hopi families. In April, after two years of efforts by the grassroots group Forgotten People, U.S. and Navajo agencies, the first load of safe drinking water was delivered to residents in the Black Falls/Box Springs/Grand Falls area near Leupp who were drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water. The group hopes to replicate that success for residents of HPL and the former Bennett Freeze.

On Aug. 22, Forgotten People planned to conduct a meeting of HPL residents at the Big Mountain home of elderly matriarch Pauline Whitesinger to discuss the possibility of implementing the water-hauling pilot project in their area.

Marsha Monestersky, Forgotten People program director, and Ed Becenti, Window Rock liaison, asked Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and other Navajo officials to attend, as well as officials from the Hopi Tribe. But that meeting went belly-up after Hopi informed Navajo that a permit was required and that Monestersky has an exclusion order against her.

“At this time, the Hopi Tribe will not be supporting or attending the meeting,” according to a letter from Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa. “To begin, the issues being raised – water and transportation issues – are Government-to-Government issues. Thus, a request for this type of meeting must come from the Navajo Nation, not the ‘Forgotten People.’”

Shingoitewa said since no one had requested a permit to hold the event, the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations. “Finally, there is a valid and binding exclusion order for Ms. Monestersky. Thus, Ms. Monestersky is not welcome on Hopi land,” he said.

Monestersky, a paralegal, first came to the area in 1975 to assist Navajo HPL residents with relocation issues and taking their case before the United Nations. Those efforts resulted in the first investigation against the United States by the United Nations for human rights violations. Monestersky said she was charged by Hopi with the unauthorized practice of law, accused of being present on HPL on several occasions without a permit, and for writing a $35 check that bounced, making her of “unfit moral character.”

She wrote the check off-reservation to buy an electric heater at Walmart in 1995 because she was “living in a cold, shabby trailer in Winslow” at the time. It was only after she moved to the reservation that she learned the check had bounced. Though she paid it off, she believes the check charge was used as an excuse by Hopi to get her banished forever from HPL.

“If they expel everyone who wrote a bad check, half the people here would be gone,” she said at the time. “What they really wanted to do was stop me from working with Navajo families here and helping them stick up for their rights.”

Pauline Whitesinger said the wells throughout HPL have been capped off, fenced or bulldozed, and the natural water near her home is contaminated. “When I drink the water it hurts my throat and I have a reaction when I swallow it and get sick.”

Raymond Maxx, executive director of the Navajo-Hopi Land Commission, said Friday that they met recently with HPL residents who brought up the water issues. “We don’t know why the wells were capped off. We’re supposed to have a meeting with the Hopis this coming week regarding the issue.”

Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for Hopi, said the tribe is reviewing the issues and is moving cautiously with advice. Calls to Clayton Honyumptewa, director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources, were not returned.

Rena Babbitt Lane, whose husband passed away years ago after suffering a ruptured aneurysm while trying to open a cover from a dismantled well, attended the Aug. 26 meeting at Hardrock Chapter. Through her daughters Mary and Zena Lane, Rena said the number one priority everyone talked about is water.

“The Navajo Nation said the Hopi Tribe told them they capped off the wells because they did not want people to drink contaminated water. We need water for our livestock and we were never told anything by the Hopis. What is the water contaminated with? Why did they just destroy all the water resources without telling us why, even the Rocky Ridge well for Big Mountain residents?”

Lane, who is in her 80s, said they have to buy water from the chapter house and haul it 16 miles one way on a sandy road filled with potholes. Unlike in Window Rock, the monsoon season has not been kind. “The water ponds are filled with sand and the water when it does come does not last. We need tractors to dig out the water ponds and a water well near our home,” she said.

“We can’t really depend on our Council people and the Hopi and Navajo government. They are of no help to those of us that live on HPL. When we tell them something, both tribes point a finger at each other and no one helps us.”

Caroline Tohannie, an elder born and raised on Black Mesa, said they are suffering health problems and sickness because of the land dispute. “To this day there are a lot of arguments with both tribal councils. Why is it like that when they are supposed to work for the people to improve our lives? Can’t we work out our disagreements with the traditional people instead of the tribal councils? That is the way we want it.

“We need to reintroduce the greetings between the traditional Hopi and Navajos to straighten out our differences in that manner. In our language, k’e has to be regenerated. We have to reintroduce our greetings at the fireplace with the fire stick. Those are the laws of the traditional people and we need to follow the red road again.”


1994 SPECIAL HEARING: DEVELOPMENT NEEDS OF THE FORMER BENNETT FREEZE AREAThe federal government cannot wash its hands of the deprivation it has brought to the Bennett Freeze area victims. The Court decision modifying the ban was only the first step—now, the United States government must play a critical role in bringing the Area back in step with the rest of modern America. It has, I believe, a profound moral and legal obligation to remedy the deprivation it has imposed. By the terms of the Freeze, the Navajo residents were not even allowed to help themselves build better lives. Nor does the Navajo Nation, having watched its housing, roads, and other infrastructure decay, have the resources to make up for the years of progress the Bennett Freeze area was denied. The federal government must help remedy the grave injustice and tragedy it imposed on the people of the former Bennett Freeze area.

8/24/2011 Greenwire: Conyers decries clean coal technology, W.Va. industry

8/24/2011 Greenwire: Conyers decries clean coal technology, W.Va. industry: DETROIT — House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) today said “clean coal” doesn’t exist and that West Virginia coal miners should switch to other jobs during a speech at the opening session of U.S. EPA’s 2011 Environmental Justice Conference. “From my limited understanding, there is no such thing as clean coal,” said Conyers, filling in for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who had been invited to give this morning’s keynote address. The American public continues to be bombarded by the idea that coal has a future in this country due to powerful special interest groups and regional advocates, Conyers said.

“There’s a big campaign going on about how you clean coal and we want to examine that as critically and fairly as we can, but here’s the problem: I’ve been to West Virginia, and that’s about all they’ve got there,” Conyers said.

Conyers — who over his nearly 50 years in Congress has been a leader on the Democratic side of the aisle in the fight against large fossil fuel producers, particularly big oil — said the history of coal mining in West Virginia “is one of the sorriest reports you’ll ever see.”

He called for the industry to be shut down in the state and for those who rely on coal jobs there to find alternative employment.

“We’ve got to work out a situation in one state of the union, there may be others, in which we come up with alternative ways of creating full employment without just putting everybody out of work,” he said.

Conyers comments come two days after U.S. and Chinese officials signed a new intellectual property agreement meant to ease the sharing of innovative technology when it comes to clean coal research (ClimateWire, Aug. 22).

And last week, the Department of Energy announced that it would target more than $50 million toward clean coal technology research over the next four years.

That funding commitment for four separate projects earned praise from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

“The Department of Energy is making another important investment in carbon capture and sequestration technologies because they recognize that clean coal technology is essential to meeting our nation’s energy and environmental needs,” ACCCE Vice President Evan Tracey said in a statement last week. “This investment in research and technologies will help ensure that we can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases while keeping electricity affordable for American families and business.”

The congressman saved his assessment of the future of clean coal for the end of a wide-ranging address in which he also decried Congress’ lack of understanding of how low income and minority communities are disproportionately affected by pollution.

“Many people in our nation, particularly in the federal legislature, are unappreciative of the dimension and challenges of the environmental issues that cause us to be here today,” Conyers said. “Here’s what we’ve got to do: We’ve got to work out strategies to educate the American people and our elected officials at every level about the magnitude of the problem of environmental justice and fairness.”

The 24-term congressman also bemoaned EPA’s inability to fully implement the toxic and acid rain reductions goals that Congress set during its revision of the Clean Air Act of 1990.

“It’s still in court being challenged and frustrated by the same people that I call the pro-pollution crowd,” Conyers said. “1990 and we’re still trying to get that plan out. … I will have more to say about that when Congress resumes two days after Labor Day.”

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks

7/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Western Navajo Pipeline dropped from water rights talks By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – If the Navajo Nation wants the Western Navajo Pipeline it’s going to have to build it, at least as the situation now stands. The project is no longer part of the proposed Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement. Stanley Pollack, Navajo water rights attorney, and the Navajo Water Rights Commission gave the Nabiki’yati’ Committee an update Tuesday evening on water rights settlements in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, as well as near-miss litigation with the city of Flagstaff over water drilling on the city’s Red Gap Ranch. Pollack said he informed the Navajo Nation Council in May that the proposed Northeastern Arizona settlement approved last November by the 21st Council was no longer under consideration because Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, who heads the Arizona congressional delegation, didn’t think the settlement could get through the current Congress.

On March 23, Kyl advised the settlement parties to come up with a proposal that did not include the costly Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring “liquid gold” to water-starved portions of the Nation in Western Navajo Agency.

“I immediately told the senator that without the Western Navajo Pipeline that the Navajo Nation was not willing to engage in any discussions concerning settlement of its Colorado River water rights. So we basically took the Colorado River issues off the table once Congress took the Western Navajo Pipeline off the table,” Pollack said.

Lack of support for the Western Navajo project was not unanticipated, however, and as a result, “we have been involved in trying to wrap up a settlement of just the Little Colorado River and not the Colorado River,” he said. Hopi stood to gain nothing out of the Little Colorado River settlement because there were no projects for the Hopis involved, so they were not part of the deal, he added.

Kyl set a June 3 deadline for the parties to put together a settlement he could introduce this month in Congress. On June 3, attorneys for parties to the settlement discussions entered into an agreement “basically agreeing to what we would call a Little Colorado River settlement,” Pollack said. That settlement was forwarded to Kyl’s office and the Department of the Interior, where it is now under review.

“If we get to the point that there is a settlement that the administration and Congress believe has legs, can move forward, has some chance of being approved by the next Congress, at that point in time we will come back and give you more details on the settlement and ask for your approval,” he said.

“But we don’t think there’s any point of going through another process of approving a settlement that we just simply don’t have the go-ahead from either the congressional delegation or the administration to move forward in Congress.”

Delegate Leonard Tsosie said what bothers him is that Kyl is calling the shots. “I don’t think that the agreement that the Council approved should be characterized as a non-valid consideration.” He asked the Water Rights Commission to convene at least one meeting to explain to the Navajo people the status of the Western pipeline. “I think if this is no longer a valid consideration, then we need to be honest with the people and tell them that – in Navajo language.”

He also suggested the Commission begin talking with the Obama administration to try to promote the pipeline.

“Sen. Kyl is going to be gone in less than a year. So be it. Let him go to whatever burned-out place near Walla where I suppose he has a cabin. But for the Navajo people, life goes on. We still need water, with or without Sen. Kyl. … Not showing sympathy for basic human need, to just kind of turn a blind eye to that really bothers me to. I would like to think that he has a heart.”

Tsosie said Hopi also got off without approving the lease. “Many of the Navajo persons were praising them for doing that while the rest of us were getting close to having our effigies burned. Hopi has made off clean here. … I think in the future this Council ought to consider whether we truly need Hopi approval or not. I’ve always said to put the spigot at the borderline and let them develop their own water line if they so care to do so.”

Lorenzo Curley took issue with the “sacred cow” portion of the negotiations – the Colorado River and Navajo Generating Station.

“As we all know, Navajo Generating Station supplies 90 percent of the water to Phoenix and Tucson area, and they need this. That’s why they’re ensuring that the generating station is considered part of this agreement. We’re allowing that sacred cow to be part of this agreement. Why don’t we just take it off the table? They’ve done that with the Colorado River and the Western pipeline. They’ve taken our sacred cow off; let’s take theirs off,” he said.

Alton Shepherd said Curley brought forth a good analysis of the process. “I did have my reservations on what was being agreed,” he said.

Katherine Benally told the committee that as much as they don’t like what has transpired, they can’t blame Pollack and the Water Rights Commission. “It’s a decision Sen. Kyl made. … That was his position and it’s sort of the position in Washington, D.C., right now due to the deficit or the money crunch everybody is in. So, what’s the solution?

“Every time we negotiate something, we sacrifice. Maybe land, maybe water, maybe a little bit of our sovereignty, maybe our water rights. But if we put our money where our mouth is, we don’t sacrifice anything.”

Benally said the main cost is to bring the water up from the canyon at Lees Ferry. She referred to some Oriental investors who recently visited Navajo. “’Let us build it for you,’ they said. I would ask the Water Rights Commission to take a look at that. At least sit down with them and have a dialog and report back. See what transpires.”

Pollack said there appeared to be a couple common themes of frustration and perhaps even anger over what has happened with the Western pipeline. “There is no question that the Navajo people in the Western Agency need water. Once you are west of the Echo Cliffs, there is no groundwater, there is no surface water. That is why the Western Navajo Pipeline has always been the backbone of any Colorado River discussions that we have had.”

But there is really no point in pushing the pipeline in its current form, he said. “There’s no place to go with it. The Obama administration does not support it. Congress doesn’t support it. Look, these people are talking about cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, health benefits for the American people. They’re trying to cut back. They’re trying not to spend more money.”

Meanwhile, the Nation’s Water Management Branch is building the Western Navajo Pipeline “one piece at a time,” Pollack said. Navajo technical staff is working with Indian Health Service and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority to get drinking water to the people in Western Navajo.

“There is a small pipeline in the ground that goes almost all the way to Cameron. There is about a six mile gap that we have not been able to get funding for,” he said, because it doesn’t meet the criteria. Approximately $986,000 is needed.

“One of the things that we would like the Council to consider is pitching in and helping to finish that pipeline.” Once it is completed, he said, “you will actually have a small version of the Western Navajo Pipeline.”