Letter to the editor: NGS closure is an opportunity for tribes’ leaders

Navajo Generating Station sits a few miles south of Page, Arizona. Adobe stock

Navajo Generating Station sits a few miles south of Page, Arizona. Adobe stock

To the editor:

Instead of begging for charity, the president of the Navajo Nation and chairman of the Hopi Tribe should be dancing in the streets like Hopi and Diné grassroots people, who are celebrating their independence from greedy energy corporations, which have devastated our land, waters, archaeological and burial sites, cultural resources and cedar trees, which Hopi people use for healing and purification.

Now, Salt River Project has decided to walk away from Navajo Generating Station (NGS), just like the Peabody boys from St. Louis, who are packing their bags to jump on a train, leaving us with an ecological and economic train wreck.

Finally, after 50 years, we will cut the umbilical cord to NGS, owners and Peabody Energy.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye, in a commentary published in the Gallup Independent, spoke about Diné standing at the crossroads. Either the Navajo Nation chooses to keep traveling the same path that has gotten Hopi and Diné into the current mess or jointly forge a different path toward true economic independence by wisely using our vast and rich energy resources. But to our disappointment, the Navajo president announced to the media that he is joining the Navajo Nation speaker of the council and Hopi chairman to continue to travel the same old path.

The Navajo leaders need to understand that NGS and coal mining cannot continue up to 2044 as recommended by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (jokingly called the U.S. Bureau of Wreck-a-Nation by the Hopi people), unless the Hopi Tribal Council approves the coal lease extension when it expires in 2024. The approval must come from 11 independent Hopi villages, plus one Tewa community.

The Hopi Tribal government operates under the Hopi Constitution and by-laws. The Hopi people delegated limited powers to the Hopi Tribal Council. Approving long-term leasing and the sale of land and water is not among the delegated powers. That is reserved for villages. To date, no hearing have been held to get consent from the village people. Furthermore, the 10-year coal lease reopener with Peabody and Salt River Project ends in June 2017. The lease must be renegotiated to continue for another 10 years. Most importantly, the lease must get consent of the villages and the approval of the U.S. secretary of the Interior before it goes into effect. Time has run out, which means the Peabody coal lease will end in 2017.

Black Mesa Trust has developed and submitted a plan to the Bureau of Reclamation to salvage a portion of operation of NGS without using coal. The proposal was developed by Diné engineer, Glen Manygoats. It is available by request at kuuyi@aol.com.

Black Mesa Trust has also prepared a concept paper entitled: ‘Colorado Plateau Clean Energy Inititative.’ The idea is to create a think-tank composed of visionary and creative thinkers whose mission will be to develop a glide path toward true economic independence in a manner that honors the values, beliefs and traditions of our ancestors. The concept paper is also available at kuuyi@aol.com.

Vernon Masayesva Kykotsmovi, Arizona

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