Anti-plant rally continues on first day of Navajo council meetings
By Ryan Hall, The Daily Times
Jul 19, 2005, 10:51 pm

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Two groups of concerned citizens made the environment a visible issue on the first day of the Navajo Nation Council by protesting outside the chambers Monday morning.

“ Water for the people, not for coal,” was a chant heard shortly before 9 p.m. as members of the Black Mesa Water Coalition marched and rode horses through Window Rock to the tribal complex.

Following the demonstration, the group, in cooperation with Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment (CARE), then held a press conference on the steps of the council chambers.

Following the conference, members of the Dooda (no more) Desert Rock Power Plant Committee then protested in front of the chambers while members listened to the State of the Navajo Nation address inside.

The anti-power plant group, which opposes a proposed $2 billion coal-burning plant to be located in Nenahnezad, also hosted a reception for council delegates during the lunch break.

During the reception, Sarah White of Shiprock and a member of Dooda Desert Rock Power Plant, said the group made the drive to Window Rock to make council delegates aware of their concerns.

Members of the group have previously said they are concerned with the plant using Navajo water and with the health risks that could result from power plant emissions.

“ We’re hoping the council delegates and (Navajo Nation) President Joe Shirley understand what we’re talking about,” White said.

She said additional issues revolve around the promise of more than 200 jobs and $50 million annually for the Navajo Nation from Sithe Global of Houston and the Diné Power Authority, co-developers of the plant.

White said she doesn’t believe the Diné people will receive as much money as the company claims.

“ It’s a shame how little money we get from the company. We have over 1,000 oil and gas (wells) and the Four Corners Power Plant for over 40 years. It hasn’t gotten us anywhere,” White said. “What makes them think one power plant called Desert Rock will put the whole Navajo Nation in prosperity?”

She added that even if the money was delivered as promised, the Navajo Nation shouldn’t sell out by taking it in return for damaging the environment.

“ This is not the Native way. I am so embarrassed of picking up the scraps from the company,” she said. “We treasure everything. Quality of life is good, clean water and good, clean air.”

Earlier in the day, members of the Black Mesa Water Coalition echoed the sentiments of the Dooda Power Plant group by arguing clean water that was readily available is more important than aiding industry.

“ All water is sacred and we should respect it,” said Wahleah Johns, of the Black Mesa Water Coalition.

The group asked members of the council to stop the proposed use of the C aquifer on a slurry line by Peabody Coal in the Black Mesa area.

Shirley has signed a memorandum of understanding with Peabody, allowing the use of the aquifer, according to a packet handed out by the group prior to an afternoon presentation inside the council chambers.

“ H2O, Joe don’t know,” Leonard Chee, council delegate from Birdsprings, Leupp and Tolani Lake chapters, said during the morning press conference, referencing the president signing the agreement.

Chee also asked those present to consider following up their 140 mile horse ride and eventual march on the council with a vote for change if their plea was not heard.

“ Let’s make the environmental issue a political issue in the next tribal election,” he said as the crowd clapped and cheered.

In all, more than 20 horses and 30 walkers descended on the council chamber for the press conference, many carrying signs.

The Dooda Power Plant Committee did not present to council other than during the informal reception.

Leupp residents, representing the Black Mesa Water Coalition, was on the agenda for the afternoon and made a presentation and took questions from council delegates.

Neither group has any sponsored legislation on the summer session agenda.


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