Tag Archives: Jared Blumenfeld

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

9/29/2011 EPA announces plan to clean up largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation

9/29/2011 EPA announces plan to clean up largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation: SAN FRANCISCO – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it has approved a plan and committed to clean up the Northeast Church Rock Mine, the largest and highest priority uranium mine on the Navajo Nation. The cleanup will include removal of approximately 1.4 million tons of radium and uranium contaminated soil and will employ the most stringent standards in the country. The cleanup will place the contaminated soil in a lined, capped facility. The multi-year cleanup will be conducted in several phases.

“This is an important milestone in the effort to address the toxic legacy of historic uranium mining on the Navajo Nation,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region. “This plan is the result of several years of collaboration between EPA, the Navajo Nation, and the Red Water Pond Road community living near the mine.”

“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I appreciate the efforts of the USEPA and Navajo EPA, and the cooperation from the state of New Mexico to clean up contaminated Navajo trust lands,” said Ben Shelly, President of the Navajo Nation. “A perfect remedy is difficult to design, and in this case every stakeholder can be proud of their input into the remedy. I look forward to the cleanup and putting people to work restoring our lands.”

The disposal cell will be designed with participation from the Navajo Nation, State of New Mexico, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Department of Energy. EPA will fund an independent technical advisor to aid the community in their understanding of the project as it develops and facilitate local input into the design process. The cleanup will allow unrestricted surface use of the mine site for grazing and housing.

“Consolidating the waste into one repository will return the land to the Navajo Nation for their traditional use,” said David Martin, New Mexico Environment Secretary. “The cleanup will also ensure long term stewardship to protect public health and the environment.”

Northeast Church Rock mine operated as a uranium ore mine from approximately 1967 to 1982, and included an 1800-foot deep shaft, waste piles, and several surface ponds. Under EPA oversight and in conjunction with the Navajo Nation EPA, General Electric conducted two previous cleanups at the site to deal with residual contamination, including the removal and rebuilding of one building in 2007, and removal of over 40,000 tons of contaminated soil in 2010.

Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time can result in anemia, cataracts, and cancer, especially bone cancer.

EPA’s work with Navajo Nation to identify and enforce against responsible parties is part of a 5-year plan to address the problem, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/

Contact: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 328-1676, perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov

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8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Chevron to investigate uranium contamination at Mariano Lake Mine site

8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Chevron to investigate uranium contamination at Mariano Lake Mine site By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Chevron USA Inc. to investigate radium-contaminated soil at a former uranium mine in McKinley County. The Mariano Lake Mine, or “Old Gulf Mine,” was operated by Gulf Mineral Resources Co., from 1977 to 1982. Gulf previously held the mining leases before it merged with Chevron in 1985. The agreement is the latest result in an ongoing effort by U.S. EPA and Navajo Nation EPA to address the uranium mining legacy on the Navajo Nation. Of the 520 abandoned uranium mines identified through a federal five-year plan, Mariano Lake is the fourth one slated for time-critical interim removal action, “so that tells you it’s a high priority,” said Clancy Tenley of EPA Region 9’s Superfund Division. The other priority sites include Northeast Churchrock, Quivira and Skyline mines.

“It’s only a 31-acre site, so a relatively small footprint,” Andrew Bain, EPA remedial project manager, said Monday. “They had a single shaft that was 519 feet deep, so they were extracting ore below the water table.” The shaft was located in the eastern area of the site, while the western area reportedly was used as an evaporation pond for mine water.

“This one came up of interest not just because of the surface contamination that we learned about in the course of doing both site-assessment work and removal assessment work, but also because of the production wells nearby in Mariano Lake community.” EPA has confirmed the production wells are fine but wants to test wells in the vicinity of the mine just to make sure there’s no contamination that could impact the production wells in the future, he said.

Under the agreement, Chevron will conduct a radiological survey and sample radium-contaminated soil throughout the site and surrounding area, including 10 residences and two nearby water wells. “We’re looking at the roads, the soils atop the old mining areas as well as nearby,” and a parking area of concern, Bain said. “After we do the characterization work then we’ll have a pretty good feel for where the areas of contamination are.”

In July 2008, EPA conducted a preliminary gamma radiation activity assessment on portions of the site and detected elevated readings, which prompted further assessment work. From around November 2009 through May 2010, EPA conducted gamma surveys at nine home-sites and did additional soil scans of the mine area. Elevated readings of gamma radiation were found at the site and radium-226 in some of the surface soils.

Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time can result in anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, and cancer – especially bone cancer, according to EPA.

“We’ve worked over the last couple years through our Emergency Response Office to reduce the impacts posed by those soils. There was a family there who had their trailer moved and cleaned up as part of our earlier effort,” Bain said.

U.S. EPA and Navajo EPA will oversee field work at the site, which will include construction of a fence and application of a sealant to contaminated soils where people live, work and play – similar to activities which took place at Northeast Churchrock, Quivira and Skyline mines – while the investigation is carried out. The order also requires Chevron to post signs, lock gates and prevent livestock from getting into areas of known contamination prior to cleanup. Chevron visited the site last week along with U.S. EPA oversight.

Navajo EPA is conducting gamma scans and soil sampling, which is the first step in assessing potential impacts from the mine site and any requisite cleanup action.

“We’re interested in looking at the extent of contamination in the surface soils and figure out how deep that contamination extends, both vertically and laterally. We just wanted to make sure that based on their operations they weren’t releasing radionuclides or other heavy metals that would have gotten into nearby drainages or other soils adjacent to the mine area,” Bain said.

The Mariano Lake site underwent reclamation similar to the Quivira Mine in Churchrock under Bureau of Land Management oversight back in the 1990s, Bain said, however, BLM doesn’t have the same standards as EPA in terms of looking at environmental releases. “Their focus is preventing people from falling in shafts and being right on top of these mine wastes. We’re looking at more of the diffuse risks based on long-term exposure to the wastes.”

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said he is looking forward to the data that will be generated from the EPA investigation. “I respectfully request U.S. EPA to understand our desires for the most protective cleanup plans that will help restore harmony in our communities and homes.”

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region, stated in a press release that EPA is “working to make sure that every responsible party takes the steps needed to protect Navajo families from radioactive contamination.”

Chevron, which has agreed to pay oversight costs, is the fifth responsible party that EPA has required to take action at former uranium mines on the Navajo Navajo. A Removal Site Evaluation report is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2012. Based on results of the evaluation, a second removal action would begin in April 2012 if necessary.

Information: http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/

8/1/2011 US EPA News Release: EPA enters into agreement with Chevron to investigate soil contamination at uranium mine on the Navajo Reservation

8/1/2011 US EPA News Release: EPA enters into agreement with Chevron to investigate soil contamination at uranium mine on the Navajo Reservation: Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 947-4149, perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov: SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached an agreement with Chevron USA Inc. to investigate radium-contaminated soil at the Mariano Lake Mine site, a former uranium mine located on the Navajo Nation near Gallup, New Mexico. The agreement is the latest result of an ongoing effort by EPA and Navajo Nation to address contamination from the legacy of uranium mining in the Navajo Nation.

Under the agreement, Chevron will conduct a radiological survey and sample radium-contaminated soil throughout the 31-acre Mariano Lake Mine site and surrounding area, including 10 residences and two nearby water wells. Chevron also agreed to pay EPA’s oversight costs.

“This investigation is part of EPA’s commitment to help the Navajo Nation deal with the significant impacts of historic uranium mining,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region. “We are working to make sure that every responsible party takes the steps needed to protect Navajo families from radioactive contamination.”

Ben Shelly, Navajo Nation President, said, “On behalf of the communities in and around Mariano Lake, I extend my sincere appreciation for the agreement today between the U.S. EPA and Chevron. I look forward to the data that will be generated in this investigation, and I respectfully request U.S. EPA to understand our desires for the most protective clean up plans that will help restore harmony in our communities and homes. This type of agreement will continue to help us as we work to correct the harmful legacy of past uranium mining and milling on the Navajo Nation.”

EPA and the Navajo EPA will oversee field work, which will include construction of a fence and application of a sealant to contaminated soils where people live, work and play while the investigation is carried out. The order also requires Chevron to post signs, lock gates and prevent livestock from getting into areas of known contamination prior to cleanup.

The Mariano Lake Mine site operated as a uranium ore mine from approximately 1977 to 1982, and includes one 500-foot deep shaft, waste piles, and several surface ponds. Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time can result in anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, and cancer, especially bone cancer.

Chevron is the fifth responsible party that EPA has required to take actions at former uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. EPA’s work with Navajo Nation to identify and enforce against responsible parties is part of a 5-year plan to address the problem, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/