To the editor,
The Forgotten People, a grassroots organization from the western Navajo Nation is opposed to the Office of Surface Mining's "Record of Decision" (ROD), which would grant Peabody Coal Company a life-of-mine permit for the Black Mesa coal mine. This permit was approved in the final days of the Bush administration despite strong opposition from the Navajo and Hopi people and by Arizona Congressman, Mr. Raúl M. Grijalva.
In addition, the Hopi Chairman and Vice-Chairman both resigned and the Hopi Appellate court was suspended. This government instability demonstrates the Hopi tribe has been and is unable to enter into legal agreements.
It is estimated that Peabody Coal Company mining and slurrying operations will use about 2.4 billion gallons of water per year from the Navajo (N) aquifer and the Coconino (C) aquifer.
Further estimates indicate that 13,000 residents of the Western Agency use about five gallons of water per day. At that rate, 2.4 billion gallons of water would support 13,000 people for 100 years or more. However, people currently living in the vicinity of Peabody do not have a drop of water to drink and are hauling their water over great distances. In some areas, people are drinking arsenic and uranium contaminated water.
Adverse health effects are evident. Forgotten People believes the high rate of kidney failure in both the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribal communities may be due in part to water pollution problems. Coal slurry spills are transported to our waterways. We make offerings to these springs. Spring water is used in our ceremonies, as drinking water sources for livestock and wildlife. If they are contaminated it will destroy our prayers and harm our people.
In April, 2000, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on the Navajo Reservation, almost 37 percent of all households do not have access to electricity. This occurs despite the fact that there is an ample supply of coal and a large power generation station with major transmission lines on this reservation. Moreover, the Navajo Reservation accounts for 75 percent of all Indian households on tribal lands not having electricity.
Peabody is not a good neighbor. With blatant disregard to peoples' basic access to drinking water and sanitation needs, Peabody, at their discretion has been shutting off the public drinking water source, closed the public showers and erected locked gates and fences forcing employees and local residents to drive miles out of their way. The U.S. and federal agencies have a statutory obligation to properly assess the impacts on the Dine' and oppose relocation.
Forgotten People requests, as justice so requires, the agency decision to approve the permit be postponed pending judicial review to prevent irreparable injury to the people, their land and way on life. Peabody Dooda!
Billy Reese Kee
Dine' Be' Iina' na' hil naa