by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer
The Navajo-Hopi Observer
06 July 2010
Ariz—Over the past couple of months, a new Hopi and Navajo
grassroots group has been meeting in the hopes of developing a
more formal posture on tribal lease reopeners regarding coal
revenues and alternative methods of water usage at Peabody Coal
and the Navajo Generating Station (NGS).
"Inter-tribal COALition" held a meeting June 26 at the Hopi
Veterans Memorial Center conference room in Kykotsmovi in front
of a capacity crowd of Hopi, Navajo and other individuals who
are interested in working together to develop formal proposals
to present to the Navajo and Hopi tribal councils that will
upgrade current lease conditions–environmentally and
economically–with Navajo Generating Station and Peabody
Western Coal company.
facilitators included former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa
and former Navajo Nation council officials Tulley Haswood and
Milton Bluehouse, who presided over a full afternoon of
presentations. One presentation was by Wahleah Johns of the
Black Mesa Water Coalition who shared possible renewable energy
how local Natives understand what major energy companies are
after, how the energy is used and what that means for the local
Native population who live on the reservation full-time and how
the emissions will affect those living in that area.
presentation showed the Black Mesa area and where the current
lease reopener is being proposed and how continued mining could
potentially affect local communities healthwise. She also gave
statistics on how Natives have already been affected with
respiratory illnesses as a result. Information was also shared
regarding CO2 (Carbon dioxide), which has the largest impact on
global plant change.
(NO) also contributes greatly to respiratory illnesses for Hopi
and Navajo residents and both Peabody and NGS create NO
emissions with their current plants.
With an over 50
percent unemployment rate for both Navajo and Hopi people, the
Inter-tribal COALition group feels that the current royalty
rates given to both tribes are not sufficient for the harmful
effects that these chemicals produce in the generation of
electrical power for outside entities and metropolitan
communities hundreds of miles away from Navajo and Hopi lands.
ownership breakdown for the Navajo Generating Station is: Bureau
of Reclamation 24.3 percent, Salt River Project 21.7 percent,
Nevada Power 11.3 percent, Arizona Public Service 14.0 percent,
Tucson Gas and Electric 7.5 percent with a final percentage held
by Los Angeles Water and Power at 21.2 percent.
There is a
possibility that the Hopi and Navajo Tribes could purchase the
share held currently by Los Angeles Water and Power because they
will have to sell their shares due to new regulations.
If this happens,
Navajo and Hopi would be genuine shareholders in their own water
and coal resource use, which is why the Inter-Tribal COALition
group would like for both the Hopi and Navajo tribal councils to
seriously consider purchasing the shares currently held by Los
Angeles Water and Power.
solutions to natural resource management and keeping it clean
and economically beneficial to both tribes is what the
Inter-tribal COALition wants to develop and implement.
"Both of our tribes, have a common problem and that common
problem is Peabody ... This company has caused both the Hopi and
Navajo people to butt heads when we need to join up to fight
Peabody together. Both tribes have recently rejected the Peabody
lease reopeners. I am happy for that. We need to convince each
of our tribal councils to reevaluate how much we are worth ...
in terms of water and electrical power. We undervalue ourselves
and our resources. This has to stop."
"We have been disadvantaged in all of these power company
negotiations. Over $10 billion dollars goes into these company
coffers every year, and yet over 40 percent of Hopi and Navajo
people do not have electricity or running water in their own
homes. Something is wrong with that."
commented, "As Hopis we need to stop dragging our feet and move
towards cleaner and environmentally safe power plants because
fossil fuels are damaging to our earth. We also recognize that
one of the problems is that we do not have a formal Hopi tribal
energy policy. We must educate our communities on alternative
ways to move towards better self-sufficiency.... Because of
all the recent political in-fighting, this important issue has
fallen by the wayside. We have to wake up our Hopi Council and
officers to the critical importance of this."
impact of on-going resource royalty rates and looking for
possible solutions to Navajo and Hopi coal and water resources,
Navajo presidential candidate Sharon Clahchischilliage from the
St. Michaels chapter was at the meeting joined by Navajo Nation
council candidate, Arlene Brown from Manuelito Chapter.
The Sierra Club
was represented by Andy Bessler, Executive Director of the
Flagstaff Office along with one of their summer interns. Roger
Clark represented the Grand Canyon Trust.
The next meeting
for Inter-tribal COALition is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday,
July 31 at the Hopi Veteran's Memorial Center. Lunch will be
provided. Interested Hopi and Navajo tribal members are
encouraged to attend.
For more information, call (928)