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Stop The Black Mesa Project: Peabody’s Massive Coal Mining Expansion Plans

October 11, 2008 by  
Filed under Action Alerts, Latest Posts, Mining & Water

ALERT: The Permitting Process for Massive Coal Mining Expansion Plans, The Black Mesa Project, has been Re-opened and Comments for Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) Were Issued the Day After Election!

Both Republican & Democratic parties have consistently expressed support for the development of so-called ‘clean coal’ technology to help solve the nation’s energy problem while claiming to be interested in fighting pollution, global warming, and human rights. While many environmental and scientific groups have questioned whether the burning of coal can ever be clean, for First Nations in the Four Corners area ‘clean coal’ is also a matter of ethnic cleansing and of their survival.

At this moment the decision makers in Washington D.C. are planning ways to expand their occupation of tribal lands to extract mineral & other resources. Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, is currently pushing through plans to massively expand dirty coal strip-mining operations targeting the Dine’ (Navajo) & Hopi peoples sacred ancestral homelands of Black Mesa, AZ. The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has recently re-opened the Black Mesa Project – Final Environmental Impact Statement which outlines harmful impacts to every level of the ecological and cultural systems on Black Mesa and has global repercussions.

If we don’t stop these plans, Peabody will have the green light to:

  • Establish permanent mining rights until the coal runs out or until at least 2026!
  • Substantially accelerate global climate disruption and cause an ecological meltdown.
  • Destroy thousands of acres of pristine canyon lands, causing animal and plant ecology and cultural sites to vanish.
  • Increase the detonation of coal on a daily basis, affecting air quality and health of miners, local residents, and their livestock.
  • Deplete the already scarce water tables and regional aquifer that are all essential to residential survival.
  • Uproot & relocate families from their ancestral homelands due to coal mining expansion.
  • Sacrifice human dignity and planetary health for elite profit! Peabody would cause many more problems than what is reflected here. Its roots remain sunk deeply in the history of colonial genocide, corporate power grabs, and ecological devastation.

In 30 years of controversial operation, Peabody’s Black Mesa Mine has been the source of an estimated 325 million tons of CO2 that have been discharged into the atmosphere.* If expansion plans are permitted, it would exacerbate already devastating environmental and cultural impacts on local communities and significantly add fuel to the fire of the current climate chaos we face globally. Coal from the Black Mesa mine could contribute an additional 290 million tons of CO2 to the global warming crisis!*

Black Mesa residents say “Coal is the liver of Mother Earth, keep it in the ground, keep her alive and healthy!

The Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC) is spearheading a campaign to stop the Black Mesa Project and to protect their homelands of Black Mesa. BMWC has additional information about protecting Black Mesa and is leading the Just Transition Campaign, “an innovative plan to transition tribal economy, employment, and energy off fossil fuel extraction and onto a sustainable renewable energy path”. Support green jobs! No to coal!

Also working with BMWC to stop Peabody is Sierra Club’s Environmental & Tribal Partnerships Program:

Support a Community-Led Just Transition to a Green Economy!
Stop Predatory Development and Catastrophic Climate Change!
No to Peabody’s Preferred Alternative B.
Yes to The People’s Preferred Alternative C which is a ‘No Action’. (No to coal mining expansion!)
Support a Community-Led, Just Transition to a Green Economy!
Stop Predatory Development and Catastrophic Climate Change!

*BMP FEIS/Black Mesa Water Coalition

The following action alert is from The Black Mesa Water Coalition in July 2008. Although this action has already happened, there is good information outlined in the action alert below. Thank you to the many people who have sent your comments in opposition of the proposed Black Mesa Project. We must keep it up! Please stay posted for current action alerts and further updates during these critical times.

Please help by doing one or all of the below:
1. Simply download the below letter, sign it and mail it in!

2. Download the sample letter, change or add MORE to it that addresses your concerns for climate change, global warming, air quality, alternative energies, or other future environmental quality issues. Don’t forget to sign it and mail it in!

3. Type out or hand write your own letter using the suggested talking points, sign and mail it in! We encourage you to hand write your own letter.

4. It’s not to late to host a letter writing party! Invite friends and family over to write their own letters using the suggested talking points and sample letter. Provide paper, pens, envelopes and stamps.

Please write or email to both the Navajo OSM and the regional OSM to request a suspension and complete halt of this EIS process! Or, in the alternative, an indefinite extension of the commenting period on the Black Mesa Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement!

********************** SAMPLE LETTER *************

Dennis Winterringer
Western Regional Office
Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
P.O. Box 46667
Denver, CO 80201-6667
Phone: 303-844-1400, ext 1440

Re: Request for Suspension or, in the alternative, Indefinite Extension to Submit Written Comments on Black Mesa Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Dear Mr. Winterringer:

We are writing to request that OSM grant an immediate suspension or, in the alternative, an indefinite extension of time in which to comment on the “reopened” Black Mesa Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and which was re-released for comment on May 23, 2008.

In particular, we respectfully request that the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (“OSM”), at a minimum, indefinitely suspend any proposed comment period until such time as Peabody has properly amended its permit revision application for the Black Mesa Mine Complex to remove proposed plans and activities that supported supplying coal to Mojave Generating Station. Additionally, our request for suspension or, in the alternative, indefinite extension is made in consideration of the cultural importance of the area; the complexity and scope of the issues; and, the need to reconsider the applicability of previous comments with respect to newly proposed project and preferred alternative, modified Alternative B.

The proposed Black Mesa Project will have many harmful impacts to the ecological and cultural life ways on Black Mesa, particularly to the environment, and Navajo and Hopi communities.[1] The spiritual significance of the area is manifest, providing religious shrines and/or offering places. To the Dineh (Navajos), the whole Black Mesa region including Navajo Mountain represents one of the supreme deity Female Mountain and the belief is that she possess both human and divine forms and qualities as she lie across from her male companion, the Chuska Mountains . Both of these ranges are considered alive, and that which dictate systems for all life forms across these particular landscapes. According to Dineh spiritual understanding, Black Mesa as a female entity is the provider of medicinal herbs, tobacco blends and regional floras and faunas.

The Dineh’s spiritual view further describes that Navajo Mountain in Utah is the head, Marsh Pass below the north rim of Black Mesa is a turquoise necklace, in her left hand she holds a sacred staff (the El Captain spire), in her right hand she holds a medicine basket (Cowsprings Formation around the confluences of Moenkopi-Cowsprings washes and Coal Mine canyon), and her bare feet are the jutting mesas of Hopi country. The Dineh, children of Female Mountain, were given the responsibility of ritual prayer offerings to insure the continuation of the hydrologic cycles that replenishes (her) bodily fluids (Navajo Aquifer) and that also regenerates the natural springs throughout.

Coal is the liver embodiment of this female mountain and its functions will be jeopardized if it is furthered extracted. Despite scientifically supported methods of reclamation and hydrological analyses, the terrain and its ecosystem will lack soil nutrients that the liver provides which are necessary to rebuild natural landscapes and to re-energize plant ecology. Thus, the modified Alternative B as it concludes in the Draft EIS inadequately interprets the destructive processes of aquifer and coal extraction of Dineh and Hopi lands that encompasses mostly pristine topography that contain numerous cultural and religious sites. The haste in soliciting comments for an entirely new project precludes an adequate representation of these harms.

Further, the Draft EIS addresses a wide range of complex issues on such matters as hydrological impacts of water withdrawals and mining operations. The public should be provided full opportunity to review the Draft EIS with full disclosure of the proposed project, as outlined in the permit revision. In fact, the public may be entitled to another scoping comment period and draft environmental impact statement. In short, it is premature to request comments by July 7, 2008 given the scope and complexity of the document, unavailability of amendments to Peabody ‘s pending permit revision and dramatic shift in project objectives, proposed project, and preferred alternative. Lastly, numerous tribal members and interested stakeholders that have previously submitted scoping and other comments have received no notification of the re-release of the Draft EIS and its associated modifications that require additional review.

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to suspend or, in the alternative, grant an indefinite extension of time so that these issues may be resolved and meaningful public comment provided.


Mailing Address:
Phone (optional):

****************** END SAMPLE LETTER *******************************


A few suggested talking points and concerns with the DEIS:

* No official U.S. and Navajo government entity has outreached or shared information to local Black Mesa residents adequately regarding Alternative B,

* The BMP draft EIS is outdated and has irrelevant information. If they want to pursue Alternative B, they need to restart a new EIS process from the beginning,

* Many of the public comments submitted last year for the BMP draft EIS were intended for Alternative A, which is an inactive issue now,

* The DEIS mentions lung problems and only proposes mitigation for mine workers, not residents. DEIS must look at mitigation measures for local residents to avoid health problems associated with black lung, silicacosis and other lung ailments like asthma,

* The DEIS does not consider how OSM will comply with RFRA (Religious Freedom and Restoration Act) and prevent substantial burden on the tribes’ ability to practice their religion,

* The DEIS does not compare the economics of additional coal mining vs. a Just Transition to renewable energy development on the mine site and reclaimed areas to prevent long-term cumulative impacts by additional coal mining,

* The DEIS does not address the pumping of the Navajo Aquifer for the last thirty years. These amounts exceed the aquifer’s ability to replace water annually, and have adversely impacted the natural springs and seeps all over Black Mesa. Springs and seeps no longer can produce the water needed for Navajo families to survive daily. Instead families must abandon local water resources and use community wells 20-30 miles over unimproved roads. The mining operation’s irresponsible use of groundwater has jeopardized the people’s survival into the future. Peabody has not included in its application the impact on the people of Black Mesa and how long they can expect to survive with continued use and contamination of the only source of drinking water the people have. What measures do they have in place to insure the people that an alternate source of water in quality and quantity will be delivered if there is irreversible damage to the N-Aquifer?

* DEIS is vague and does not give the reader a clear understanding of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the potential relocation of 17 families!

* The DEIS does not address the current U.S. federal laws that make CO2 a pollutant and uncalculated CO2 emissions that will contribute to global warming until 2026, if more mining by Peabody coal company continues.

****Below is information taken from the Office of Surface Mining’s latest newsletter*****
How to Submit Comments on the Draft EIS
Comments on the Draft EIS and alternative B may be submitted by e-mail over the Internet or in writing. In the subject line of your e-mail or at the top of your letter, indicate that the comments are “BMP Draft EIS Comments.” Include your name and address in your e-mail message or letter. To ensure consideration in the Final EIS, written comments must be received by OSM by 4:00 p.m. (MDT) on July 7, 2008.

E-mail comments should be sent to Written comments sent first-class or priority U.S. Postal Service should be mailed to:

Dennis Winterringer, Leader
Black Mesa Project EIS
OSM Western Region
P.O. Box 46667
Denver, Colorado 80201-6667

Comments sent by U.S. Postal Service Express Mail or by courier service should be delivered to :
Dennis Winterringer, Leader
Black Mesa Project EIS
OSM Western Region
1999 Broadway, Suite 3320
Denver, Colorado 80202-5733

Navajo Nation Office of Surface Mining
John Stucker
Mining Engineer
Postal Service
Navajo Nation Minerals
Department Office of Surface Mining
P.O. Box 1091
Window Rock, Arizona 86515

Delivery to (ie FedEX, UPS)
Navajo Nation Minerals
Department Office of Surface Mining
Mineral Department Window Rock Blvd.
Window Rock, Arizona 86515


Navajo Nation Minerals
Department Office of Surface Mining
Mineral Department Tribal Hill Drive
Window Rock, Arizona 86515

Telephone: (928) 871 – 6464
FAX: (928) 871 – 6457

Work on the Black Mesa Project EIS Resumes
After a one-year delay, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) has resumed work on the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Black Mesa Project.

The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) has recently re-activated the Black Mesa Project (BMP) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in May 2008.

After being shelved for one year, the preferred alternative for the draft EIS has changed to Alternative B.

In 2006, OSM released the DEIS for the BMP supporting preferred Alternative A. Which meant the expansion of the mine, the building of a coal-washing facility, the use Coconino Aquifer and Navajo Aquifer, and re-building of the 273-mile coal slurry-line to transport coal to the Mohave Generating Station. Since January of 2006 MGS, Black Mesa mine and slurry-line has closed due to the unavailability of coal transportation means, fresh ground water (Navajo and Coconino Aquifer).

Today Alternative B has re-opened the DEIS. Alternative B is to supply Black Mesa coal to the Navajo Generating Station located near Page, AZ.

Alternative B will combine the Black Mesa mine and Kayenta mine into one life- of-mine permit (LOM), thus giving Peabody Coal Company the right to mine in their coal lease boundary until there is no coal left. Currently the Kayenta mine is the only operating mine on Black Mesa and has been operating on a LOM permit for over 30 years. Alternative B would expand and re-open the Black Mesa Mine joining the Kayenta mine.

It is still unclear what exactly Alternative B is, community people of Black Mesa are outrage for the lack of notification and sudden change in the DEIS. Residents of Black Mesa have been opposing the BMP draft EIS since its release. In particular, the majority of public comments submitted to OSM last year are comments regarding Alternative A.

OSM has given 45 days for the general public to respond on Alternative B, this is an insufficient time for elders, youth and Navajo and Hopi speaking people to make comments. The deadline for public comments is July 7, 2008.

Proposed Black Mesa Project
Southern California Edison and the other co-owners of the Mohave Generating Station (MGS) in Laughlin, Nevada, suspended operations of the power plant in December 2005. Since then they have been unsuccessful in finding buyers that would reopen the power plant. The power plant has never been a part of the proposed Black Mesa Project, but several components of the proposed project as it existed in November 2006, when OSM issued the Draft EIS, are dependent upon the power plant for their existence. These components include the Black Mesa Mine, coal slurry preparation plant, coal-slurry pipeline, and proposed Coconino water-supply system.
Peabody Western Coal Company, the sole supplier of coal to MGS, notified OSM that it believes the chances are remote of the power plant ever reopening. Therefore, it is unlikely that the Black Mesa Mine will resume coal production to supply the power plant, the existing coal-slurry preparation plant will be permitted, the coal-slurry pipeline will be rebuilt, and the new Coconino water-supply system will be built.
While OSM will continue to analyze these project components in the Final EIS under alternative A, OSM will be designating alternative B as the proposed project and preferred alternative. Alternative B includes the continued operation of Peabody’s Kayenta Mine to supply coal to the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, and incorporation of the surface facilities and coal reserves of the Black Mesa Mine into the Kayenta Mine permit.

Status of the EIS
In November 2006, OSM released the Black Mesa Project Draft EIS for public review. During the comment period, which ended in February 2007, OSM received approximately 18,000 comment submittals. In May 2007, OSM suspended work on the Final EIS, including analysis and preparation of responses to these comments, when Southern California Edison stopped funding the EIS. OSM has resumed work on the Final EIS, which is now funded by Peabody.

OSM intends to issue the Final EIS by the end of 2008. Availability of the Final EIS will be announced in the Federal Register and in local media.

Comment Period on Draft EIS Reopens
On May 23, 2008, OSM published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the comment period on the Draft EIS has been reopened between May 23 through July 7, 2008. The Draft EIS is the same document previously issued in November 2006. Comments are requested on the alternative B, which is now the proposed project and preferred alternative. Please do not resend comments previously submitted on the Draft EIS. OSM is considering these comments in the preparation of the Final EIS.

The Draft EIS is available for review on OSM’s website at Paper and computer compact disk (CD) copies of the Draft EIS also are available for review at the Office of Surface Mining, Western Region, 1999 Broadway, Suite 3320, Denver, Colorado 80202-5733. (For more information on how to submit comments on the Draft EIS, see the information on the back cover of this newsletter.)

******End of OSM Newsletter****

For more information, updates, and how to get involve please visit our website at The Black Mesa Water Coalition or contact our BMWC office line: (928) 213-5909


Additional Info:

LEGITIMACY OF THE BMP EIS PROCESS IS QUESTIONABLE: The Office Of Surface Mining (OSM) assures us they will review our comments and continue with the preparation of the final Final Environmental Impact Statement (F-EIS) & that EIS’s are based on available data and information. However, Peabody Western Coal Company has issued many changes to the BMP-EIS since it was originally published. The draft EIS is the same document as previously issued. This information has not been made available to the public for comment! The public is being asked to comment yet we do not have all the information necessary to make a well-informed comment. Additionally, OSM needs to throw out this EIS and completely redo the proposal to address global warming and other aspects. We question the legitimacy of the OSM/ Peabody-funded EIS process.

Agencies involved in the decision making process:
Peabody Coal Company is funding the EIS process. The Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA); U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (USFS), County of Mohave, Arizona; and City of Kingman, Arizona will cooperate with OSMRE in the preparation of the EIS.


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