WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - The Navajo public will be permitted to submit comments regarding a $14.5 million settlement with a bankrupt company that is responsible for uranium contamination on Navajo lands.
In 2009, the Navajo Nation filed a claim against Tronox, a Delaware corporation based in Oklahoma City, Okla., and is now expected to receive a payment resulting from the bankruptcy settlement. The money will be used to clean up land contaminated by uranium mining.
"We fought hard in many different forums with the U.S. government and private corporations to clean up hundreds of abandoned uranium mines," Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. said. "[This will] bring responsible parties back to clean-up the contamination they left behind. These funds will begin to help us restore our lands."
Tronox was a multi-national chemical company that makes and sells titanium dioxide and other specialty chemicals used in plastics, paper and inks. On Jan. 12, 2009, the company and 14 of its affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of New York.
The settlement will provide $13.3 million to the U.S. EPA to address the clean-up of more than 40 abandoned uranium mines in the northern and eastern agencies of the Navajo Nation. Additionally, it will provide $1.2 million directly to the Navajo Nation to help address environmental compliance at the Shiprock UMTRA site in Shiprock, N.M.
Tronox was created through a spin-off from the Kerr-McGee Corporation. Several months after the spin-off was completed, Anardarko Petroleum Corp. purchased Kerr-McGee for $18 billion.
In the bankruptcy proceeding, Tronox agreed to resolve its environmental liabilities for $270 million, and 88 percent of Tronox's interest in a pending litigation.
In anticipation of the final action by the U.S. bankruptcy court, the settlement will be lodged with the bankruptcy court for a period of 30 days to provide public notice and to afford the public the chance to comment.
In accordance with the Navajo Nation Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 2008, the Navajo Nation will provide a concurrent 30-day public notice and comment period.
"We are especially grateful for the hard work put on this project by attorneys with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. EPA Region IX," said Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie. "Their close work and constant consultation with Navajo Department of Justice attorneys is greatly appreciated."
He said the Nation will continue to cooperate in litigation against Kerr McGee and Anadarko.
Settlement documents will be available for the public to review at the Navajo Nation Department of Justice in Window Rock. The comment period closes Jan 2.
For more information, contact David Taylor at (928) 871-6209.
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