Tag Archives: Us Department Of The Interior

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.

-End-

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

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

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

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

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

9/16/2011 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.

9/15/2011 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.”

8/31/2011 The Advocate: Ignoring the epidemic – Contemporary Native American issues neglecte

8/31/2011 The Advocate: Ignoring the epidemic – Contemporary Native American issues neglected By Alexandra Waite, news editor: United States history classes may teach the injustices brought upon Native Americans by Europeans hundreds of years ago, but most do not take the initiative to find out how those acts are still largely affecting Native Americans today. Native Americans living on American Indian reservations experience some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, disease, teen pregnancy and the worst housing conditions in our nation. Poverty is a recurring problem for Native Americans, but especially for those living on Native American lands.

An Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Although the federal government recognizes more than 550 tribes in the country, there are only 326 Indian reservations.

Federal officials said violent crime rates on reservations are more than twice the national rate and epidemics of domestic and sexual violence exist, along with high instances of child abuse, teen suicide and substance abuse. There is also a proliferation of gang activity on reservations, yet law enforcement recruitment and retention across reservations lag far behind the rest of the nation.

These conditions Native Americans must endure hit close to home for me.

This July, I traveled by myself to Denver to meet my biological family, which is full Native American, for the first time. During that trip, my mother introduced me to the Native American culture within the city and opened my eyes to a problem not visible from the Bay Area.

Driving along the streets, one could identify the large presence of homeless Native Americans asking for assistance. Like my mother, many of these Native Americans left reservations at a young age to go to large cities, escape poverty and better their lives.

My mom and older sister live in Denver. My three younger siblings live a couple states away on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota while my mom tries to collect enough money to provide for them.

The Pine Ridge Reservation, located in Shannon and Jackson counties, is one of the poorest regions in the country.

The population of Pine Ridge suffers from health conditions commonly found in Third World countries, including high mortality rates, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, malnutrition and diabetes. Reservation access to health care is limited and insufficient compared to urban areas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment on the reservation ranges from 80 to 85 percent, and 49 percent of the population lives below the federal poverty level. Many families have no electricity, telephone access, running water or sewage systems; many use wood stoves to heat their homes, reducing limited wood resources.

Gang-related violence is also an issue that plagues Pine Ridge with nearly 5,000 young men from the Oglala Sioux tribe involved in at least 39 gangs.

The gangs at Pine Ridge, along with many reservations in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and Southwest, are blamed for an increase in vandalism, theft and violence and the growing fear of a changing way of life.

Court decisions involving serious crimes on reservations are investigated by the federal government, usually the FBI, and prosecuted by U.S. attorneys of the U.S. federal judicial district in which the reservation lies. These crimes have a low priority both with the FBI and most federal prosecutors, according to the Tribal Law and Order Resource Center. Serious crimes are often either poorly investigated or prosecution has been refused.

Tribal courts were limited to sentences of up to one year until July 29, 2010, when the Tribal Law and Order Act was enacted, which aims to reform the system and permits tribal courts to impose sentences of up to three years.

However, Indian Law and Order Commission Chairperson Troy Eid said most tribes determined they cannot afford to enact the law or are content with their current systems that do not always determine a winner and loser, instead focusing on collaborative or “restorative” justice.

Native Americans are by no means to blame for these issues they face and it is up to the federal government, the institution that forced them into this situation, to make long overdue reparations.

Finding resolutions to reverse the crime and poverty among reservations is a difficult task, but that does not mean the government should not do so at once, before Native Americans lose grasp of what diminishing culture they have left.