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Black Mesa coal talks continue

February 2, 2006 by  
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Shirley opposes grassroots plan, council interested

02.02.06 By Marley Shebala Navajo Times (hard copy)

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.

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