Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Wed, Dec. 11

Hopi Tribe explores alternative energy sources<br>

A second panel discussion included Arizona Corporation Commissioners Bill Mundell, Kris Mayes and Marc Spitzer as they discussed how to improve energy and utilities on the Hopi Reservation.

Councilwoman Etnire said the Black Mesa Trust’s work, which she called “Masayesva group,” has been detrimental to the process. She was referring to Vernon Masayesva, executive director of Black Mesa Trust, a Hopi-based environmental group.

Councilwoman Etnire stated that the Hopi Tribal Council is in negotiation with Peabody Coal Co. officials. But, she emphasized, from the publicity that people think that the Black Mesa Trust is included in the negotiations.

“People from the outside feel that Black Mesa Trust speaks for the Hopi Tribe—and that’s not true,” she said. “The environmentalists have good intentions, but they’re not hearing the Hopi Tribe.”

Canty said until the Hopi Tribe and Peabody can reach an agreement, that it is premature to take the issue to environmental groups.

Chairman Taylor noted that they tried to invite everybody, including the environmental groups, to the energy fair. However, he said the main idea was to bring the people involved in the negotiations together for the panel discussions.

Nobody from Black Mesa Trust appeared to be present during the panel discussion.

The Hopi Tribe may have other options if the Peabody coal operation closes this year.

Chairman Taylor said the Hopi Tribe wants to see the Peabody Coal Co. operation remain open, but if it closes he said that other companies may take over the coal operation.

Chairman’s stance

Prior to the panel discussion, Chairman Taylor said energy needs are critical to Hopi’s future.

“We need to have reliable energy sources. We have coal and other sources. We are also blessed with the sun and wind, so we have to see how we can harness them,” he said.

Chairman Taylor said the Hopi Tribal Council’s Energy and Water teams have been following the Peabody Coal Co. operation with the hopes of keeping the operation going, but also with an eye on which companies can take over the project if Peabody pulls out.

Due to the ongoing negotiations, the chairman declined to state which companies could take over the operation.

“This may or may not go anywhere,” he said.

Chairman Taylor emphasized that keeping the Peabody Coal operation going is important because the tribe needs the money for any future ventures, energy or otherwise.

Chairman Taylor said the Hopi Tribe continues to negotiate with Peabody Coal Co. with the hopes of keeping the operation going.

“We have to work together,” he said. “We just don’t agree on the water (source), but we’re absolutely trying to negotiate through this.”

The Peabody operation currently uses water from the N-aquifer, but Hopi’s say the water is being depleted. Hopi officials want Peabody to use water from the C-aquifer near Winslow or use water from Lake Powell.

Dunfee estimated that pipelines could cost $150 million or it could cost about $600 million to bring water in from Lake Powell by rail.

Chairman Taylor said a Bureau of Reclamation study, due out in about a month, will point out the best alternatives.

“If we can put all the pieces together then it’s possible that we won’t have a shutdown,” he said.

The Peabody operation brings $6-$7 million into the Hopi Tribe’s budget each year—about 35 percent of the tribal budget. There are also about 150 employees at Peabody.

Chairman Taylor said if Peabody closed down and the Hopi Tribe lost that $6-$7 million, which it receives annually, that it would be devastating. He noted that the youth and elderly programs would be the first to lose their funding.

Peabody currently plans to shutdown sometime during the latter part of this year. Tribal officials estimate that the tribe would lose $2 million this year. Chairman Taylor said this would mean cutting funds from every Hopi tribal program.

While the Hopi Tribe remains concerned about the future, they received good news that morning. Salt River Project, Southern California Edison and Peabody

Coal Co. presented the Hopi Tribe with a $1.7 million bonus check for the year. The three companies are partners in the Mohave Generating Station project.

The Hopi Tribe puts these bonus funds into the Hopi Endowment Fund for scholarships for Hopi students.

Adverse impacts

During the panel discussion, Canty said if Peabody closes that it would impact all essential government services on the Hopi Reservation. He added it would cause cuts to the Hopi Tribal Council and it would also adversely impact economic development.

Dunfee, the Peabody spokesman, said he hopes the Peabody Coal Co. project can keep going for 25 years.

Councilman Honanie said the tribe wants to see the costs kept down in order to keep this project going.

Canty said if the proper water source can be found and the costs can be kept down that the coal operation can be continued through at least 2026.

“If these issues can be resolved then the plant can stay open,” he said.

Dunfee agreed, but noted that Peabody does not have the necessary permits to keep the operation open past 2005.

(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School. The reporter can be reached at stanfred23@yahoo.com.)

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