Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, Jan. 26

Black Mesa Trust opposes negative image<br>

Masayesva said that so far what people are hearing is that water will be brought to different Navajo communities and Hopi villages. There has been nothing about what will be done with the water, who will pay for it, the pipelines, or the necessary electricity to bring the water.

The intent of Black Mesa Trust, according to Selestewa, was to stop the waste of water used by Peabody Coal Company to transport coal through a 273-mile long pipeline—water that was never returned.

“For 24 hours each day, every hour, every minute, every second, for over 30 years, this went on non-stop,” Selestewa said.

Masayesva summed up BMT’s efforts regarding the N-aquifer.

“These past few years, Black Mesa Trust worked hard in bringing about closure to the waste of the water alongside the long-standing position of the Hopi Tribe that Peabody Western Coal Company discontinue the use of the N-Aquifer for the sole purpose of transporting Black Mesa Mine coal by slurry beyond 2005.”

Masayesva also objects to the position that the Hopi people and government are in danger should Peabody withdraw from Black Mesa.

He underscored the Hopi Tribe has received substantial investments—$30 million from the Indian Claim Settlement and $80 million from another court settlement against the U.S. government.

“Some of that money has been put into the purchase of property all over the state,” Masayesva said. “The Hopi Tribe has substantial assets that can be used to obtain multi-year loans. We’ve got over $100 million in assets that could be liquidated. They are all paid for. That’s not to mention the huge amounts of assets in the form of coal that is still not touched at Black Mesa Mine.”

The state of Arizona, Masayesva said, receives $20 million per year in taxes from Peabody Coal Company. Navajo County also receives property tax against Peabody’s heavy equipment. Masayesva believes that the Navajo and Hopi tribes should be advocating for the introduction of a bill that would allow that the Hopi and Navajo tribes to benefit equally from that revenue.

“No one has ever raised the question, what type of services and at what cost do the tribes benefit from that revenue, and then compare that to what the state and the county are receiving from our land—Navajo and Hopi tribal land,” Masayesva said.

“Instead, what happened is that Senator [Albert] Hale introduced an amendment to some tax bill to reduce Peabody’s liability to the state. I have to ask, why in the heck are we all working for Peabody? Why do we want to reduce their liability?”

Other sources that Masayesva said would generate money for tribal coffers include the El Dorado transmission line that runs through the Hopi and Navajo reservations. The right of way for the line expired in 1992.

“Since that time, the tribes have not collected a penny from APS or Southern Cal Edison—and they are now trespassing,” Masayesva said. “Former Chairman Ferrell Secakuku and Chairman Wayne Taylor have both written letters notifying the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to this effect, but there has been no response.”

Also, Masayesva said, both the Hopi Tribe and the BIA only recently learned that APS transferred the right of way to Southern Cal Edison without the knowledge or approval of the Hopi Tribe or BIA. That assignment, Masayesva believes, is illegal.

Finally, Masayesva said, the Hopi Tribe needs to adopt modern and aggressive business practices and learn to use its assets in ways to generate greater revenue—practices that would actually allow the tribe to increase services and jobs.

“How much do we actually get from Peabody Coal? Seven million dollars—that’s it, and only $5 million is for our coal. That’s one dollar per ton,” Masayesva said. “I think $5 million is a drop in the bucket when you consider the resources the Hopi Tribe has to generate revenue.”

Selestewa pointed out that Peabody still holds a lease granting millions of tons of coal whether the Mohave Generating Station closes or not.

“Peabody can sit on this lease site until it freezes over, because they are not done with us yet. The price of coal is skyrocketing along with Peabody shares,” Selestewa said.

This leads Selestewa to dispute statements made by Hopi Tribal Council members during the Office of Surface Mining’s conferences—only one being held at Hopi—in February that transporting coal by rail would be too expensive. Selestewa cites information reported in the April 4 issue of the St. Louis Business Journal that supports Black Mesa Trust’s position that transporting coal by rail is a viable alternative. The article, written by Patrick L. Thimangu, is peppered with language such as “low cost coal producer,” and “low-cost mining operations, and indicates that Peabody stock was initially sold at $28 per share in 2001. In March of this year, Thimangu reported, Peabody enjoyed a 52-week high where shares were now worth $101.88.

“According to this reporter, the stock is up 144 percent from a low of $41.75 in May of last year,” Selestewa said. “The idea of using and building a railroad is preferred, and would enhance the mining operation and possibly the future economic opportunities of Hopi coal. Just read that article and ask the question, is it impossible? Bear in mind the difference in what Hopi receives from Peabody compared to the profits Peabody receives.”

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