Open letter to OSM Director Joseph Pizarchik
Honorable Joseph Pizarchik, Director
U.S. Department of the Interior
Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement
Washington, D.C. 20240
Dear Mr. Pizarchik:
Welcome to our homelands. We are honored that you took time to visit the sacred place we call home. We appreciate the time that you have allotted to listen to us.
As you know, the presence of the Peabody Coal Company here has been marred with controversy. We know all too well of the sad history of how the Peabody began mining our coal in the Black Mesa area. Not only that, our resources have been exploited with minimal financial returns, we are experiencing the effects of over pumping of our aquifers, our people are suffering health issues related to mining, and our sacred sites have been desecrated. These are only a few examples of how mining by Peabody has impacted our people. It is time that we hold Peabody accountable for these damages.
The recent decision by Judge Robert G. Holt to remand to OSM, its Dec. 22, 2008 decision to approve the Application for Significant Permit Revision filed by Peabody Western Coal Company is only a temporary victory for the Hopi and Tewa people. We ask that instead of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, that the Peabody's application be denied by OSM under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) provisions.
Peabody has attempted over 25 years to gain a permanent program status for the Black Mesa Mine portion but have not succeeded. Why? Because they failed to address the concerns of the Hopi and Tewa people over the pumping of our aquifers; and failed to secure another source of water as it is required to do under its current leases. This was the reason why Secretary Manuel Lujan issued an Administrative Delay for the Black Mesa portion of the mine. Peabody has also failed to satisfactorily reclaim the area that has been disturbed and damaged by its mining activity. It has failed to restore and recharge our precious aquifers. It has desecrated hundreds of our sacred sites and damaged our history.
The next Environmental Impact Statement should be for complete Reclamation and Restoration of the Black Mesa Mine area and the aquifers. We believe that OSM, as our trustee, has the obligation to ensure this is done. We also believe that OSM has a regulatory and enforcement obligation to impose Peabody to comply with SMCRA and its leases to reclaim and restore damage it has done to our homelands.
The need for energy production will continue and will increase as our populations increase. Judge Holt's decision now gives us an opportunity to work in a collaborative manner with the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy in addressing the country's energy production needs including the use of alternative sources of energy. It also gives the Hopi Tribe an opportunity to develop strategic alternatives for development of our coal resources that will be environmentally safe and will be consistent with our cultural values.
The Life of Mine Permit would have taken away any leverage the Hopi Tribe would have in future development of it natural resources, for determining its own economic future, and for protection of these precious resources. As a sovereign nation, albeit limited, the Hopi Tribe has the inherent right to protect and pursue its economic sovereignty - and these are the elements that the Life of Mine Permit would have taken away from us. We can no longer stand by and allow Peabody to continue to exploit our resources without adequate compensation and without fulfilling its contractual obligations. As owners of the resource, we have the right to determine what is best for us.
We ask that the Department of the Interior and OSM respect our sovereign rights and begin a new era of true Nation-to-Nation relationship with the government of the Hopi Tribe. We know that OSM has statutory obligations that are twofold: (1) a regulatory and enforcement obligation; and (2) as trustee to the Hopi and Tewa people. We ask that you fulfill both obligations.
Benjamin H. Nuvamsa
Former Chairman of the Hopi Tribe
Village of Shungopavi