Black Mesa coal talks continue
Shirley opposes grassroots plan, council interested


By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK – The Navajo Nation is opposing a proposal from Navajo and Hopi communities that could possibly reap more than $40 million a year to replace lost revenues and jobs from the idled Black Mesa coalmine.

On Jan. 20, the Navajo Nation filed legal papers with the California Public Utilities Commission asking it to throw out the grassroots-generated Just Transition Plan.

Attorney General Louis Denetsosie said the filing of the Just Transition Coalition motion is at a “critical juncture” of “delicate negotiations” and shows the parties want to force a permanent shutdown of the Mohave Generating Station. San Francisco attorney Mark Fogelman is assisting Denetsosie before the CPUC.

The negotiations that Denetsosie and Fogelman referred to involve settlement of the 1999 federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations lawsuit that the Navajo Nation filed against Peabody Western Coal Co., Southern California Edison, and the Interior Department, among others.

The lawsuit involved back-door dealings that resulted in the Navajos receiving coal royalty rates roughly half of what was recommended in an internal federal document.

Denetsosie and Fogelman also are negotiating a water contract that would substitute the Coconino Aquifer for the Navajo Aquifer as the water source for a slurry pipeline to transport coal from the Black Mesa Mine to Mohave, near Laughlin, Nev.

Denetsosie declined to comment on his motion to oppose the transition proposal.

He confirmed, however, that negotiations included discussions by the Hopi Tribe to temporarily withdraw its ban on Peabody’s use of the N-Aquifer if the Navajo nation also temporarily withdraws its opposition until plans were finalized to replace the N-Aquifer with the Coconino Aquifer.

Denetsosie declined to comment further on the negotiations because of confidentiality issues.

In 2002, the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe councils told Peabody that its use of the N-Aquifer must end by Dec. 31, 2005.

In Denetsosie’s motion opposing the Just Transition plan, Denetsosie and Fogelman also asked that if the Californian regulators decide to hear the transition proposal, they postpone hearings and a decision until after the Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe, Peabody, and Mohave owners finish negotiations, which the lawyers said are almost complete.

But on Wednesday, several Navajo Nation Council delegates informed representatives of the Just Transition Coalition that the council was not involved in the decision to oppose their proposal.

The delegates advised coalition leaders to introduce their plan to the council and then to take it to the appropriate standing committees, where it eventually would return to the council in the form of legislation.

Delegate Amos Johnson (Black Mesa/Forest Lake) said last week that the Black Mesa Chapter supports the Just Transition Plan and so does he.

Johnson said chapter residents also believe that it’s about time the communities and families who were directly impacted by the decades of strip mining on Black Mesa are fairly compensated.

He disagreed with Denetsosie’s assertion that young Navajos who helped develop the Just Transition initiative were not helping the elders.

This past year, those young Navajos went into the remote areas of the reservation near the coalmines delivering food and water with Apache County officials, Johnson said.

“We did not see the attorney general or other Navajo Nation officials delivering services,” he said.

Johnson, who was part of the Navajo Nation negotiating team, recalled that while Mohave was refusing to install pollution controls, both Navajo Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant retrofitted their plans to comply with federal clean air standards.

Mohave was forced to shut down Dec. 31, idling the Black Mesa Mine at the same time. Both tribal and coal company officials have declined to seek another customer for the Black Mesa coal, citing various reasons.

Delegate Hope MacDonald-Lone Tree (Coalmine Canyon/Tónaneesdizí) also disagreed with Denetsosie’s decision to oppose the Just Transition proposal, which she said also involves President Joe Shirley, Jr.

Shirley is part of the Navajo Nation’s negotiating team.

“They say they’re for the people but they don’t sit down with the people to listen to their plans,” she said. “The Nation has no plan because there’s no leadership.”
“It’s an irony that the Navajo Nation totally bans uranium but supports the continued pollution of our air and environment (by coal companies),” MacDonald-Lone Tree said.

On Jan. 11, the Just Transition Coalition asked the California utilities commission for permission to intervene in Southern California Edison’s rate case. The coalition hopes CPUC will redirect revenues from the sale of Mohave pollution credits to benefit Navajo and Hopi communities.

The coalition wants to block Edison from financially benefiting from closure of the Mohave plant. The utility stands to receive federal environmental pollution credits worth millions by the move.

Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust and energy program director, said, “It’s not fair for Mohave to financially benefit from polluting the environment for years and years and then financially benefit from closing.”

The Just Transition Coalition ants those benefits to go to Navajo and Hopi communities affected by its decisions, instead.

The coalition consists of the Grand Canyon Trust, Indigenous Environmental Network, Black Mesa Trust, Black Mesa Water Coalition, To’Nizhoni Ani, and the Sierra Club.

Enei Begay of the Indigenous Environmental Network said coalition members are disappointed bout the Navajo Nation’s decision to oppose the proposal, which she said would provide local governments with long-term clean energy development that would also create local jobs and infrastructure.

Begay said the Navajo and Hopi governments also would benefit from selling the alternative energy, especially since a market for it is growing in California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is pressing Edison and other California utilities to shift away from the energy production that creates greenhouse gases.



Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. posted without profit or payment for non-profit research, educational, and archival purposes only.

[Please note the "studies" on the C-Aquifer, one called Groundwater Flow Model of the C Aquifer in Arizona and New Mexico, prepared by S. S. Papadopulos & Associates, Inc., described as "prepared for the Salt River Project on behalf of the use of Mohave Generating Station Co-Owners." This is a very large pdf file, so it may take some time to download, depending on your connection. The other is the USGS "study." This is a much smaller file with a very auspicious sounding title, "Numerical Ground-Water Change Model of the C Aquifer and Effects of Ground-Water Withdrawals on Stream Depletions in Selected Reaches of Clear Creek, Chevelon Creek, and the Little Colorado River, Northeastern AZ."]






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picture courtesy of Black Mesa resisters — many thanks


posted by louve14, 8 february 2006