Tag Archives: Navajo Generating Station

5/8/2012 Carlos W. Begay, Sr. & Marsha Monestersky letter to Mr. James Anaya: US government theft of Black Mesa, HPL

4/3/2012 Blog posting by Wenona Benally Baldenegro: Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights

Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights by Wenona Benally Baldenegro, April 3, 2012 at 9:53pm. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development. This is coercive and wrong

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/will-the-epas-mercury-rule-cause-a-wave-of-blackouts-no/2011/12/20/gIQALEu88O_blog.html

Mike Eisenfeld

New Mexico Energy Coordinator

San Juan Citizens Alliance

108 North Behrend, Suite I

Farmington, New Mexico 87401

office 505 325-6724

cell 505 360-8994

meisenfeld@frontier.net

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

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: President Shelly pushes for water settlements

10/13/2011 President Shelly pushes for water settlements By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo President Ben Shelly was in Washington Wednesday to advocate for the Navajo Generating Station, Arizona and Utah water rights settlements, and the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Congress has funded $24 million for pre-construction and construction activities for the Navajo-Gallup pipeline. An additional $60 million will be made available for the next three years from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, according to the Navajo Nation Washington Office.

In a meeting with Assistant Secretary of the Interior Larry Echo Hawk, Shelly said, “We are working to keep the Navajo Generating Station open. The loss of the power plant will impact both Navajo and Hopi, other Arizona tribes, and the state.”

In contrast, when Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes visited Navajo in September, Resources and Development Committee member Leonard Tsosie told him that NGS and Peabody were “bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people.”

Resources Chair Katherine Benally said continued support of NGS, given its history with Navajo, did not look very favorable. “They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated,” she said.

During his meeting with Echo Hawk, Shelly said Navajo is in the final stages of a water rights settlement with Utah and needs for the administration “to lay the foundation for a complete settlement of our water claims on the Colorado River and to ensure water for Window Rock.”

The Navajo Nation also has been a co-participant in Tribal Unity Impact Week with nine other tribes and the National Congress of American Indians.

During a leadership meeting Tuesday, Shelly told tribal leaders, “Be united as one. I’m talking about uniting right now. We’re not on the same page. We need to get serious. We are going to build a United Nation of Indians.”

He referred to proposed twin office towers planned for Window Rock with a price tag of around $45 million. “If you want to work with us, that’s where we’re going to be,” he said.

He addressed sovereignty and self-sufficiency as part of his vision of economic prosperity, including needed changes to federal laws and policies which will reduce bureaucratic red tape to allow tribes to develop their resources, take control of land, and expand business opportunities.

“We can’t sit here every day and say ‘trust responsibility,’” he said.

Meeting with the Nation’s congressional leaders on proposed funding reductions for tribal programs, Shelly said, “Reducing funding for tribes would cruelly punish a vulnerable segment of the U.S. population.”

The president spoke with congressmen on funding concerns for Navajo Housing Authority, transportation, Navajo Abandoned Mines Lands, the proposed Arizona water rights settlement, Head Start, the Utah Navajo Trust Fund, and uranium cleanup on Navajo land.

Later, Shelly and a delegation from Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency met with U.S. EPA.

9/16/2011 Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts

9/16/2011 Colorado Independent: Navajo Generating Station blamed for haze over Grand Canyon, respiratory illnesses But Native American activists say new study ignores health impacts: By David O. Williams: Residents of the Navajo and Hopi reservations in the Four Corners region are dismayed that a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station near Page, Ariz., “clearly omits consideration of the coal-burning plant’s pollution impacts on public health.” During public meetings in Phoenix the last two days, activist groups have been rallying support for looming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean-air regulations that would compel the plant to install the best retrofit technology available to scrub nitrogen oxide emissions from its smokestack. Besides respiratory problems for area residents, critics blame the 42-year-old power plant for haze over Grand Canyon National Park.

Last month the EPA ordered major pollution controls within five years at San Juan Generating Station 15 miles west of Farmington, N.M., ordering the facility to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. Colorado lawmakers were seeking to avoid similar federal regulations when they approved the Clean Air, Clean Jobs Act that requires the conversion of aging coal-fired power plants on the Front Range to natural gas or renewable energy.

Conservation groups say the Department of Interior — whose Bureau of Reclamation owns the largest chunk of the Navajo power plant – is pressuring EPA to delay its ruling until the Golden, Colo.-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) can complete the first phase of an overall study on operations at the Navajo Generating Station. The plant, collectively owned by the Salt River Project, provides electricity in Arizona, Nevada and California and also supplies power to pump water through the Central Arizona Project.

“The pollution, health, and water impacts of Navajo Generating Station are huge costs — human and financial and environmental,” said Nikke Alex, a member of the Navajo Nation. “The fact that they’re ignored in the Department of Interior’s study is glaring and should be alarming for everyone in our region. Since the Department of Interior owns so much of this plant, there’s concern they may be using their influence to avoid an accounting of the true costs of keeping it running.”

As many as 18,000 homes on the Navajo Nation are completely off the grid despite the presence of nearby coal-fired power plants, which local health officials blame for a wide range of respiratory problems. But Republican lawmakers from Arizona have been actively trying to thwart the EPA push for cleaner air in the region, holding hearings and targeting various congressional committees.

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks sent a letter to the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs arguing the EPA regulations could cost jobs and endanger the state’s power and water supply. They blasted what they deemed “burdensome regulations that threaten the viability of the plant.”

“The plant and associated mine provides nearly 1,000 jobs in northern Arizona, is critical to the livelihood of the Pinal County and Native American agricultural community, and is essential to supplying water to 80 percent of the state’s population,” Gosar said. “We must carefully examine regulations that could threaten the state of Arizona’s water and power supply.”

Navajo and Hopi activists counter that they’ve suffered greatly from increased asthma and other respiratory problems traced to the plant. They also pointed to a study by the American Lung Association that found the Phoenix metro area is “one of the 25 worst of 277 U.S. metro areas for ozone pollution and is the second worst area in the nation for year-round exposure to fine particle pollution.”

Still, Navajo plant operators have reportedly indicated they might have to shutter the facility if the EPA requires the retrofits, which critics claim could unnecessarily cost more than $1 billion.

COMMENTS:

Poisoning people and the environment including the waters and the fish that swim there is not a fair trade off for a thousand jobs and cheap electricity.

I remember coming over Wolf Creek pass one evening some 30-35 years ago marveling at the spectacular technicolor sunset, only to be dismayed by my companions explanation that the colors were due to the refraction of light through the same pollution as the nightly smog in Denver,Phoenix,L.A.etc.The source of that was the Page plant which incidentally was readily identifiable from space by Apollo astronauts because it was so immense and isolated.

The notion that this plant will close before adapting to more stringent EPA regulations is ludicrous-just more of the corporate right’s scare tactics designed to intimidate low information voters.The manufacture ,installation ,and maintenance of high tech scrubbers will not only protect our health and environment ,but obviously create MORE jobs-as compliance with most regulations do.The insatiable greed of corporate utility operators [who already have all the advantages of a complete monopoly of an essential service,largely subsidized by taxpayers] is the only interest that does not benefit from these changes.

Not all Navajo or Hopi are dismayed. Some of us are actually elated with the idea of stopping haze and any related health issue that it may caused. Your wording is rather affront.

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Peabody Western Coal Co. has filed an application with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to renew its permit for mining operations at Kayenta Mine through July 5, 2015. Peabody submitted an application to OSM to renew the permit in February 2010, and proposes to continue mining in coal resource areas N-9, J-19, and J-21 from July 6, 2010, through July 5, 2015. The proposed permit renewal does not include any revisions to the mining and operations plan or the addition of any new mining areas.

“The Kayenta Mine is moving through a routine five-year permit renewal process covering the mine plan, land restoration plan and other activities related to ongoing operations, which is consistent with current operations,” Beth Sutton, director of Corporate Communications for Peabody Energy, said.

OSM has prepared an environmental assessment to evaluate environmental effects from the permit renewal. Comments must be submitted by Oct. 22 to be considered.

The Kayenta Mine permit area is located on approximately 44,073 acres of land leased from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. Peabody holds leases to mine up to 670 million tons of coal from reserves within the permit area. As of July 2010, 20,851 acres within the permit area had been disturbed.

Mining activities within the lease area would result in a moderate, short-term impact, according to OSM and would disturb 1,159 acres of land used for grazing and traditional land uses. However, the federal agency said reclamation of the disturbed areas would improve the productivity and quality of grazing lands.

“The mine has a record of good environmental compliance, and typically returns mined lands to a condition that is as much as 20 times more productive for rangeland than native areas,” Sutton said.

Within the J-21 coal resource area, four of the 83 occupied houses within the Kayenta Mine permit area would be relocated. Residents would be compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if they can establish a customary use area claim.

According to the Finding of No Significant Impact, Peabody has committed to replace three windmill wells that have or would be removed by mining. Any other water supply that could be adversely impacted by mining during the five-year permit term would be replaced.

Annual groundwater use for domestic and mine-related purposes from the Navajo aquifer would average 1,236 acre-feet per year, or 70 percent less than was used prior to 2006 when the coal slurry pipeline was operating.

Water quantity use impacts to the N-aquifer are expected to be negligible to minor, and no endangered or threatened species are expected to be directly affected because there is no predicted decrease of flows in seeps and springs associated with the N-aquifer, OSM said. Pumping has been primarily occurring within the confined part of the N-aquifer, and the agency said water levels are rising or are predicted to rise because less groundwater is being used since the coal slurry pipeline was discontinued.

The number of people employed at the Kayenta Mine will increase from 422 in 2010 to 432 in 2015. The average annual revenue paid to the tribes from 2005-2009 was $43.2 million, plus an additional average annual payment of $6.2 million to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and scholarship funds, according to OSM. These revenues are expected to continue.

“Kayenta Mine is a powerful economic force in the region creating 400 jobs and nearly $370 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for regional communities,” Sutton said. “We look forward to an efficient and timely review as part of the customary stakeholder process.”

Kayenta Mine ships approximately 8 million tons of coal annually to Navajo Generating Station.

Information: http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/Current_Initiatives/Kayenta_Mine/Renewal.shtm or (303) 293-5035. E-mail comments to kayentarenewalea@osmre.gov

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´divided on LCR settlement

9/15/2011 Gallup Independent: Dine´ divided on LCR settlement By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly proclaimed support for a Little Colorado River water rights settlement and Navajo Generating Station lease renewal in a meeting Wednesday with U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary David Hayes. But in a separate meeting with Council delegates, Hayes heard a different story. “NGS was initially allowed to use what was considered water from the Navajo Nation free of cost and then renew that after 25 years,” Delegate Dwight Witherspoon told the Washington delegation. “Certainly we would like to say, ‘No fricking way’ to giving that 34,000 acre-feet of water for free to NGS.”

Water from the Upper Basin of the Colorado River is necessary for the continued operation of Navajo Generating Station, which provides power to move Colorado River water through the Central Arizona Project. The NGS lease expires in 2019 but includes the right to a 25-year lease extension and the use of 34,100 acre-feet per year of Upper Basin water.

Interior officials, including Hayes and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure, met with Shelly before discussing a proposed Little Colorado River settlement with the Navajo Nation Council’s Nabiki’yati’ Committee.

“The Navajo Nation needs the Department of the Interior’s support for the delivering of Central Arizona Project water to Window Rock,” Shelly said, adding that the Nation is “continuing its support of the Navajo Generating Station and is currently negotiating the terms of a lease renewal.”

Hayes told delegates that a nearly billion dollar settlement proposed in 2008 and approved last year by Council would have resolved both Little Colorado and Mainstem Colorado River issues. It included a $515 million Western Navajo Pipeline project. However, the price tag precluded it from becoming law. Since then, the Navajo Nation and the United States have regrouped and “there is the potential for a $400 million settlement,” he said.

If Navajo and Hopi can agree, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is interested in making it happen. They have the potential to get the settlement across the line, Hayes said, “but only if we can close on the final issues in the coming weeks. That’s how critical it is. If we miss this window, I don’t know when it would come again.”

Duane Tsinigine, who represents the western portion of Navajo Nation, said he would like to see everyone work together on a settlement and request funding for the Western Navajo Pipeline, which would bring water to residents of the former Bennett Freeze as well as to Hopi.

“My dad’s side of the family is Hopi and I do support water for the Hopis. We did work diligently with the Hopis on the Intergovernmental Compact to lift the Bennett Freeze. I think we can work with them with due diligence on getting that western pipeline, and your support in this effort will be deeply, greatly appreciated.”

Leonard Tsosie said he was involved in the water discussion in the beginning and noticed Kyl pulled out of discussing the main Colorado River issue. “He blamed the cost of it, but I know the money is a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal finances. I believe it is an excuse for him to raise the NGS issue. I think there are hidden agendas.”

He asked Hayes and Secretary Ken Salazar to examine the Interior’s role as trustee for the Navajo people. “We need settlement of this water. I am not familiar with any dire need for this Council to renew the NGS,” Tsosie said.

“Peabody and NGS were bad deals made by the federal government on behalf of the Navajo people. These bad deals are now hamstringing economic development and community development and are working against us in terms of jurisdiction and authority. We want federal participation to turn this around. We don’t want the federal government, our trustee, on the other side fighting us, and that’s what we have found.”

Witherspoon said another concern in the settlement language is a clause about a waiver of injury to water for past and future water settlements. “I’m not sure this is protecting anybody but a particular entity that’s already on the Nation that’s using water, and we’d like to request that this be addressed and maybe be removed.”

Katherine Benally, chair of the Resources and Development Committee, read off a list of items Navajo would like to see in relation to the settlement.

“We’ve had some discussions regarding whether we could continue to support Navajo Generating Station operations and agreement. We looked at our history with NGS … It does not look very favorable – certainly not favorable for the Navajo Nation. They took our water, they took our land and did not bother to come back and see if we were properly compensated, and you all know that we are not. This remains a concern to us.

“We feel once we sit at the table with them and their stance is that they will continue to take from us free, we will not tolerate that. We are not agreeable to that. So in your meetings with NGS, it might be appropriate to give them that heads up from the Navajo Nation,” she said.

Walter Phelps who represents communities along the Little Colorado River, stressed, “My people need water. Our waters are contaminated with uranium. We have serious issues related to drought.”

Just a few days ago, Phelps attended a meeting in Cameron where his constituents asked his help in getting wells repaired and bringing water to isolated areas. “I was talking to a grandma who was just pleading with me. She says, ‘We have no water and I wish there was some way we could make use of that pipeline that Black Mesa was using for the slurry.’

“I know that’s not being considered, but the point is, the need is there, and it’s great. To me, $400 million – I’m embarrassed to go back and share that with my people,” he said.

Delegate Nelson Begaye told the committee he was aware that Hayes already had met with the president. “I don’t know what’s been said there, what kinds of commitments and questions and answers … I believe we should have gotten together here as a three-branch government and have one voice.

“There are a lot of issues,” he said. “Some of the things I personally don’t like is the conditions – if you don’t do NGS, for example, no water to Window Rock. I have problems with that.”

Hayes said that in Interior’s view, the water rights issue should be resolved on its own merits, and that while NGS issues are “hugely important,” they should be separate deals.

“Other folks are putting these things together and I share the concern. … We’re not excited about the connection that some others are bringing to this thing, but we’re going to live with the reality we’re in, and we need to work together on both issues and see where it leads.”

8/10/2011 High Country News: Haze be gone

8/10/2011 High Country News: Haze be gone: When I started researching regional haze rules a few months back, a source warned me that I was wading into the Clean Air Act’s wonkiest, most technically complicated depths. I remember her asking me something like: “Are you sure you want to go there?” Which is to say, you’d be forgiven if you paid little attention to regional haze. Eyes tend to glaze over at mention of the term. But here’s why you should care about haze rules: They’re poised to make a major dent in the air pollutants spewed from the West’s oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Facing huge costs to bring it into compliance with haze regulation, the Boardman power plant in Oregon decided to close in 2020, 20 years ahead of schedule. The Navajo Generating Station could suffer a similar fate. And last week, after rejecting the state of New Mexico’s plan for clearing the haze caused by emissions from the San Juan Generating Station, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the final version of its own plan for the coal plant,which requires it to install better pollution controls that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by a whopping 80 percent.

The goal of the haze rules is to restore air quality in national parks and wilderness areas, or Class 1 areas in regulatory jargon. The San Juan Generating Station is to thank for most of the air pollution that shrouds Mesa Verde. And the pollutants falling under haze regulation also impact public health, causing respiratory ailments and asthma, for example. According to the Summit County Citizens Voice, the San Juan Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant nearby are collectively responsible “for at least two-thirds of total nitrogen oxide pollution in San Juan County … and a quarter of all nitrogen oxide emissions statewide in New Mexico. The American Lung Association has given San Juan County an “F” grade for ozone pollution due to the number of days each year that it surpasses levels of ozone concentrations that the ALA considers unhealthy.”

Environmentalists are praising the EPA’s crackdown on the generating station, and hoping it’s a sign of more tough rules to come. As the Citizens Voice reports: “There are decades-old plants with major pollution problems in more than 40 other states that will face similar decisions on pollution upgrades in the coming year or two.”

Cally Carswell is HCN’s assistant editor.
http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/goat/haze-be-gone

Mike Eisenfeld
New Mexico Energy Coordinator
San Juan Citizens Alliance
108 North Behrend, Suite I
Farmington, New Mexico 87401
office 505 325-6724
cell 505 360-8994
meisenfeld@frontier.net

7/30/2011 Forgotten People's Comments for the official record regarding the draft Navajo Nation Energy Plan

7/30/2011 Forgotten People’s Comments for the official record regarding the draft Navajo Nation Energy Plan Via Email transmission to michelle@navajonationmuseum.org: Michelle Henry, Division of Natural Resources, The Navajo Nation Window Rock, Navajo Nation (Arizona) 86515: Re: Comments on the draft Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation (FOR THE OFFICIAL RECORD):Forgotten People is a nonprofit grassroots organization active within the Navajo Nation. We represent communities that span over 2 million acres of remote desert terrain in the northeastern part of Arizona. Most of the members practice a subsistence lifestyle of herding sheep. Many elderly community members speak only Dinè (the preferred nomenclature of the Navajo people). Forgotten People is herewith submitting these Comments for the official record regarding the draft Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation:

Forgotten People is concerned that the energy policy focuses on the continued use of coal and coal-fired power plants and leaves the door open for renewed uranium mining when the Navajo Nation can become a leader in the forefront of alternative energy.

Forgotten People supports James W. Zion, Esq. and the application of the Fundamental Laws upheld by the Navajo Nation Supreme Court that the land, property, resources and income generated from them are the property of the Navajo People. Forgotten People is concerned about a lack of transparency and fiscal responsibility by the central government through the use of “so called discretionary funds”, fails to provide an accounting of Navajo Rehabilitation Trust Fund monies and approves a lease re-opener for Peabody Coal Company’s Black Mesa mine when the Black Mesa mine does not have an operating permit.

Forgotten People supports the idea of civil society as an emerging concept in Indian country and supports the Right to Development, Navajo Nation adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and the UN Declaration on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. (See Forgotten People’s submission: “Stakeholder’s views for the Study on Human Rights Obligations related to Equitable Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation the Right to Water” posted on the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights website dated 4/15/2007.)

A 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze and forced relocation of 12,000 Dinè at a cost to US taxpayers of 500 million dollars was perpetrated upon our people so Peabody Western Coal Company could mine coal and power Navajo Generating Station. A legacy due to the export of coal and uranium mining is responsible for the observed adverse impacts of those mining activities on air quality, water quality, animal and human health, sacred sites, burial sites and cultural and historic sites.

Our communities face serious development issues. These issues have been compounded by the 43-year US government imposed Bennett Freeze. The Freeze was imposed in 1966 and is largely responsible for inadequate housing, lack of basic infrastructure such as paved roads, and pervasive poverty in the region. Only 3 % of families have electricity. Over 90% of the homes do not have access to piped water, requiring families to haul their water from other locations. EPA estimates 54,000 residents of the Navajo Nation lack access to a public water system. Only 24 % of homes are habitable today.

Since 1966, the population has increased by approximately 65 percent in the former Bennett Freeze area, forcing several generations of families to live together in dwellings that have been declared unfit for human habitation. The result of which has been a large number of deaths from exposure to the harsh climate.

The Bennett Freeze is responsible for intergenerational trauma affecting people mentally, physically and psychologically. Medical studies confirm that overcrowding in addition to the absence of running water, refrigeration, and adequate sewage disposal adversely impact the mental and physical health of Dinè residing in the former Bennett Freeze. These impacts range from youth suicide and mental illness; and an array of medical aliments including but not limited to kidney failure and cancer.

On May 6, 2009, President Obama signed legislation HR 956 and S531 to repeal the portion of Public Law 93-531 (The Relocation Act) to end the Freeze. Unfortunately, this did not address the extensive impact this law had on the Dinè people. While the Freeze has halted essential construction, including power line extensions, waterline extensions, and improvements to roads and community facilities, no rehabilitation program was developed to address the effects of the Freeze.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is involved in a major effort to improve access to safe water on the Navajo Nation and redress problems resulting from the legacy of uranium mining in the 1950s and 60’s as a result of two pressures. The first was a commitment made by the EPA at the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which the US pledged to reduce the number of its citizens lacking access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 50% by 2015. The second is the largest concentration of people without piped water and sanitation is on the Navajo Nation, especially in the communities served by Forgotten People.

A legacy of uranium mining has contaminated Navajo land and water resources. Close to a hundred percent of the demand for uranium stemmed out of the U.S. government’s pursuit for nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. From 1944 to 1986 across the Navajo Nation, mine operators extracted nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore which brought the ore to the surface.

The Navajo Nation reports the presence of over 1300 abandoned unreclaimed mines and the leeching of uranium from the slag piles into drinking water supplies was damaging water supplies. Up to 25% of the unregulated sources in the western Navajo reservation exceed drinking water standard for kidney toxicants including uranium.

Uranium in the drinking water causes multiple health impacts like bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water. Before the cause was known, doctors in the region thought they had discovered a genetic disease caused “Navajo Neuropathy”, which was associated with muscular degeneration, ulcers, vision weakness, and other severe health issues. Cancer rates among Dinè teenagers living near mine tailings are 17 times the national average. Reproductive-organ cancers in teenage Dinè girls average seventeen times higher than the average of girls in the U.S.

The Navajo miners were regularly exposed to radioactive conditions that were sometimes in excess of 750 times the generally accepted radon limits, which led to many instances of cancer, death, and other diseases. “Concentrated uranium was being blown all over the land surrounding the mills” for up to “a radius of a half a mile or so” which led to further contamination. Even after uranium mining ceased there were still radioactive problems that persisted through the mill tailings (the leftovers from the conversion process).

Forgotten People believes reaching our goals will require collaboration with the help of the Navajo central government and a human rights centered approach to development.

Forgotten People believes that in order to accomplish our goals we will need tangible improvements for our communities that would be greatly enhanced with the help of the central government.

Wars of the future will be fought over water, as they are over oil today, as our ‘Blue Gold’, the source of human survival, enters the global marketplace. While here on the Navajo Nation the most precious of all resources, our water rights, are being waived and minimized, endangering the survival of our citizens and future generations as a separate indigenous People.

In the last days of the prior administration, the Navajo Nation signed a Water Rights Settlement against the wishes of the people. Forgotten People believes the Settlement is a tragedy not only due to the minimizing of Dinè rights but the waiver of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential compensation for rights waived and a waiver for injury to water as we have seen in the Black Falls region where sources are still contaminated with arsenic and uranium, and where a US EPA Superfund contractor found, on November 9, 2010, that an un-remediated abandoned mill located yards away from a Wetland by the Little Col. River, in a flood zone, maxed out his Geiger counter at over 1 million counts a minute. This mill is in close proximity to an un-remediated abandoned uranium pit with high walls and tailings piles.

The corporate favoritism at Dinè people’s expense is throwing away money when Dinè s have to haul water by small barrels, drink contaminated water or have no access to water. The Dinè people do not get power from the NGS. It goes to Phoenix and Tucson and other cities. There is a fundamental unfairness and lack of information on the Navajo Nation. The issues addressed by Forgotten People’s highlight the need for strengthening and implementing cross-cutting principles in international human rights law. This is needed by the Navajo Nation in considering a draft Energy policy.

As members of a civil society, Forgotten People affirms the right to development and transparency. Public health is threatened by un-remediated abandoned uranium mines, coal mines, renewed uranium mining adjacent to our borders in the wetlands of the Grand Canyon, the ‘crown jewel’ of the national park system and the proposed transport of uranium through Dinè lands with no disaster response plan and the Navajo Nation remains silent.

Forgotten People urges the Navajo Nation to work with Forgotten People, Forgotten People’s attorney and grassroots organizations to develop an energy policy that will benefit the People, the environment and our future generations.

Respectfully submitted,
Caroline Tohannie
On behalf of forgotten People

Attachments:
• 7/29/2011 Comments on the DRAFT Energy Plan for the Navajo Nation (James W. Zion, Esq.)
• 7/19/2011 Forgotten People White Paper recommending a uranium transport ban amendment to the Dine’ Mining and Milling Ban
• 3/15/2011 Uranium Transport Analysis (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• Map of the Proposed uranium transport route through the Navajo Nation (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• LINK to Interactive Mapping (Arc-based) project (work-in-progress): http://myweb.students.wwu.edu/~sabier/ForgottenPeople (Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)
• 3/16/2011 DRAFT Energy Policy for the Navajo Nation (Jarrett Wheeler, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University)