Tag Archives: Peabody

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.


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


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
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


9/13/2011 Board recommends removal of Black Mesa coal slurry pipeline

9/13/2011 Board recommends removal of Black Mesa coal slurry pipeline By JIM SECKLER/The Daily News: KINGMAN — The county supervisors recommended Monday the removal of a coal slurry pipeline that stretches across the county. The supervisors recommended the removal of the coal slurry pipeline on public lands in the county at the expense of its owner, Black Mesa Pipeline Inc. The company had sought to relinquish its rights to the pipeline. The pipeline starts on the Navajo reservation and runs east to west across Mohave County crossing through northern Kingman and ending in Bullhead City.

Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport Director David Gaines asked the board to remove several hundred feet of the pipeline, some of it which goes under the airport’s runway and taxiway. He also recommended another section to be sealed in concrete and capped so a firehouse can be built.

One speaker spoke of keeping some of the easement for the pipeline to transport water and possibly fiber optics in the future. However, Mohave County Manager Ron Walker said most of the 40-year-old pipeline is in poor shape and could be a liability to the county.

The pipeline parallels Interstate 40 from Seligman westward then runs through northern Kingman running parallel to Highway 68 through Golden Valley before it crosses the Black Mountains and into Bullhead City to Laughlin.

The 273-mile coal slurry pipeline fed into the now defunct Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin that was shut down in December 2005. The 40-year-old power plant’s 500-foot smoke stack was demolished in March.

When MGS was in operation, the coal was mixed with water and pumped through the pipeline from the mines on the Navajo reservation to MGS. The water was extracted from the slurry and the coal was burned to fuel the plant’s turbines.

8/29/2011 Navajo Times: Lawsuits shed light on Peabody's clout Part 2

8/29/2011 Navajo Times: Lawsuits shed light on Peabody’s clout Part 2 by Marley Shebala: The heart of the Navajo Nation’s 1999 racketeering lawsuit against Peabody Energy, Southern California Edison and Salt River Project was a belief that their behavior in Washington was beyond unethical – it was illegal. No, it was just business as usual, the defendants maintained. The tribe filed suit alleging violations of the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act after learning that Peabody had hired a friend of then Interior Secretary Donald Hodel to seek his support as the industry giants maneuvered to derail coal royalty increases that his own agency said were justified.

After enjoying years of royalty rates equaling about 2 percent on Black Mesa coal, Peabody and the utilities, managing partners in the two power plants that used the coal, were facing a new rate as high as 20 percent.

Then BIA Navajo Area Director Donald Dodge had agreed with the Navajo Nation that the rate, set by a 1964 lease agreement, needed to be increased.

The tussle over a rate increase began when Congress in 1976 established a minimum royalty rate of 12 percent for federally owned coal. A year later the Interior Department adopted a policy that set 12 percent as the minimum rate for Indian coal, which the government considers federal property that is held in trust for the tribes.

Dodge notified Peabody in September 1979 that it was in violation of its lease with the Navajo Nation, which could be canceled as a result.

Peabody obtained the tribe’s support to have Dodge back off the talk of cancellation in return for agreeing to substantially increase the royalties and apply the rates retroactively to Jan. 1, 1980.

That’s according to the 1999 RICO complaint filed by then Navajo Nation Department of Justice Attorney General Levon Henry and a host of outside attorneys hired to help with the case.

But shortly after Dodge backed off, Peabody denied any such agreement.

The BIA tried again in 1981 to pressure Peabody to raise the royalty rate by challenging the company’s failure to obtain a right-of-way over Navajo lands for the access road it built to its two mines on Black Mesa.

8/18/2011 Navajo Times: Peabody, tribe mum on lawsuit settlement

8/18/2011 Navajo Times: Peabody, tribe mum on lawsuit settlement by Marley Shebala: The settlement of the Navajo Nation’s $1.8 billion Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit against coal giant Peabody Energy and its partners Salt River Project and Southern California Edison was quietly announced by Peabody in a two-page statement posted on its Web site Aug. 4. The Navajo Nation was just as quiet in announcing the end of the largest damage suit in its history, although the settlement immediately grabbed national media attention.

Both the tribe and the defendants said the settlement ended a $600 million lawsuit, though the tribe had estimated total damages as high as $1.8 billion when it first filed the suit 12 years ago.

It took the Navajo Nation Council, which recently voted not to raise the royalty rate Peabody pays on Black Mesa coal, a week to issue its own one-page press release about the historic settlement.

It was a contrast to June 17, 1999, when the tribe held a press conference and issued several press releases a day after the lawsuit was filed in federal court.

Kelsey Begaye and Edward T. Begay, then Navajo Nation president and Council speaker, respectively, expressed their outrage over what they said was a conspiracy to rob the tribe of legitimate income from coal resources on Black Mesa.

The trigger was Peabody’s successful effort to prevent the Interior Department from supporting the tribe’s effort to raise royalty rates to 20 percent, nearly twice what the company considered acceptable.

“This lawsuit has been filed to right a serious wrong against the Navajo Nation and its people,” Begaye said. “The damage caused by Peabody’s influence peddling is staggering.

“Since 1984, the Navajo Nation has suffered losses of $600 million,” he said. “While the defendants reap huge and illicit profits using Navajo coal to generate electricity for homes and businesses in Southern California, Las Vegas and Arizona, thousands of Navajo homes are still without electricity.”

“We will not be cheated any longer,” Begay said. “Coal represents the Navajo Nation’s most valuable natural resource. This lawsuit will restore lost revenues to the Navajo Nation and place us on the road to achieve economic self- sufficiency for our people.

“We are not asking for a handout,” he added. “We are demanding to be compensated equitably by American corporations and treated fairly by the United States government.”

Friends again

The current leaders took a far different tone.

8/8/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo reaches accord with Peabody

8/8/2011 Gallup Independent: Navajo reaches accord with Peabody By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation has reached a settlement agreement with Peabody Energy, Salt River Project and Southern California Edison on the 1999 Navajo royalty litigation, it was announced Thursday in a joint press release published by PRN Newswire. Terms of the agreement are confidential, however, information obtained by the Independent indicates the settlement is worth $65 million to Navajo. Upon signing of the agreement, the Nation was expected to receive a $50 million cash lump sum with an additional $1.5 million – or $300,000 each – for 10 years earmarked for the five affected chapters of Black Mesa, Forest Lake, Kayenta, Chilchinbeto, and Shonto. The $50 million would be considered excess revenue and would go to the General Fund, minus funds for mandatory set-asides. It would be up to Council to determine how the excess revenue would be spent.

The settlement was negotiated on behalf of the Navajo Nation by Attorney General Harrison Tsosie. Others involved in the discussions were Council Delegates Leonard Tsosie and Katherine Benally of the Resources and Development Committee, and Jonathan Nez and LoRenzo Bates of the Budget and Finance Committee.

Though there were no immediate press releases issued by the Navajo Nation, Attorney General Tsosie stated in the joint release that “the Navajo Nation is pleased the parties were able to come together in a spirit of cooperation to settle this long-standing litigation.”

In 1999, Navajo sued the United States in the Court of Federal Claims seeking $600 million in damages and alleging violations of the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Navajo claimed that then-Secretary of the Interior Don Hodel had been improperly influenced by Peabody when he approved coal royalty lease amendments in 1987. The Supreme Court ruled in April 2009 to reverse the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals that allowed the Nation to pursue its claim for breach of trust against the United States.

As part of the case against the United States there was an allegation that Navajo should have received a 20 percent coal royalty rather than the 12.5 percent of gross proceeds determined in 1987. The director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the Navajo Area issued an opinion letter imposing a new rate of 20 percent but Peabody filed an administrative appeal and while it was pending, the tribe and the company reached a negotiated agreement to set a rate of 12.5 percent. As a result, the area director’s decision was vacated, the administrative appeal was dismissed, and the Secretary approved the amendments to the lease. The settlement announced Thursday stems from litigation over that matter.

Peabody has mined coal on Black Mesa under two leases with the tribe since the mid-1970s. A portion of the coal went to Southern California Edison, which was co-owner and operating agent of Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev., before the plant closed in December 2005. Salt River Project is the operating agent for Navajo Generating Station, which uses coal from Peabody’s Kayenta Mine.

“Peabody is pleased to have successfully concluded these important agreements, and looks forward to our future collaborative efforts with the Navajo Nation for the long-term benefit of tribal people,” Peabody Senior Vice President for Southwest Operations G. Brad Brown said.

“Mining on Black Mesa is a major economic staple, contributing more than $12 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits to the region since the operations began.” Peabody noted that the settlement was reflected in the company’s second quarter 2011 financial statements.

The Navajo Nation Council also recently approved the 2007 lease reopener with Peabody and allocated $5.2 million of the revenue for the Many Mules Water Project. The reopener agreement is worth $3.5 million per year to Navajo, in addition to a signing bonus and scholarship money.

7/6/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody coal royalty 'reopener' back Leases also reflect royalty rates for uranium

7/6/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody coal royalty ‘reopener’ back Leases also reflect royalty rates for uranium By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The Resources and Development Committee approved an agreement Tuesday between the Navajo Nation and Peabody Western Coal Co. to amend the royalty rates for two mineral leases related to coal mining operations on Black Mesa. The Navajo Nation and Sentry Royalty Co. originally entered into Lease 8580 in 1964, and Lease 9910 in 1966. Peabody Western became the ultimate owner of Sentry’s interest in the two leases, which were amended in 1987 to provide for a “reopener” every 10 years to negotiate increased royalty rates. The next opportunity is 2017. “Every 10 years we can negotiate the royalty rate, but we were told that the (current) royalty rate is at the highest we can go,” Resources Chair Katherine Benally said. “The only thing that we really negotiate is for the scholarship, and just the re-signing of the agreement.”

In 1997, the last time there was an adjustment, the royalty rate for lease 8580, which is 100 percent Navajo-owned coal, stayed at 12.5 percent – the minimum rate set by Congress in 1977. The Nation’s royalty rate for lease 9910, which is split 50/50 with the Hopi Tribe, was 6.25 percent. The Nation received a $1 million signing bonus and an annual bonus payment of $3.5 million.

The 2007 royalty adjustment currently being debated, proposes the same 12.5 percent royalty rate for coal from the Kayenta Mine area, 6.25 percent for coal mined in the Navajo-Hopi Joint Use Area, a signing bonus of $1.55 million, an annual bonus of $3.5 million for 10 years, a scholarship increase from $124,000 to $167,000 for lease 8580; and an increase from $62,000 to $83,000 for lease 9910, according to Roscoe Smith, vice chair of the committee and sponsor of the resolution.

The terms are the same as those presented to the 21st Navajo Nation Council in 2009 and again in 2010. Both times Council turned down the proposed agreement. The resolution approved Tuesday moves next to the Nabiki’yati’ Committee, which met Thursday, and then on to the 22nd Council for consideration. Council begins its summer session July 18.

“You’re looking at $35 million over a 10 year period,” Smith said, after the amendments are approved by the Secretary of the Interior. The Hopi Tribe already has approved the royalty rate adjustments. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal company, had 2010 revenues of nearly $7 billion.

Though Council has not brought it up during discussions on the lease reopener, one caveat of the original mining lease approved in 1966, the amended lease of 1987, and the lease amendment agreement of 1999, pertains to royalty rates for uranium ores mined and sold by the Lessee. Black Mesa basin has proven uranium deposits.

According to the agreements, if Peabody chose to mine uranium in its lease areas, it would be subject to paying the Nation a royalty rate provided for in the “Percentage Royalty Schedule” set nearly 56 years ago. The schedule is part of a resolution approved by the Advisory Committee of the Navajo Tribal Council dated Sept. 27, 1955.

Similar to the coal royalties, if either party is dissatisfied with the royalty rate for uranium, it can begin good faith negotiations to adjust it. If no agreement is reached within six months, the issue will be taken to arbitration. Uranium or gold/silver milling on the lease areas is prohibited, according to the agreements.

James W. Zion, an Albuquerque attorney who represents Navajo grassroots groups such as the Forgotten People and Hadaa’sidi, said the reference to uranium mining in the Peabody lease could be in conflict with the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act of 2005 which bans uranium mining and processing on the Navajo Nation.

“The question to be asked is whether the lease grandfathers in uranium mining,” Zion said.

The Navajo Nation currently is considering a draft energy policy which focuses primarily on coal. The draft policy supports the Nation’s ban on uranium mining but does not rule out the possibility of future uranium mining and nuclear energy generation.