KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - Over the past couple of months, a new Hopi and Navajo grassroots group has been meeting in the hopes of developing a more formal posture on tribal lease reopeners regarding coal revenues and alternative methods of water usage at Peabody Coal and the Navajo Generating Station (NGS).
The "Inter-tribal COALition" held a meeting June 26 at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center conference room in Kykotsmovi in front of a capacity crowd of Hopi, Navajo and other individuals who are interested in working together to develop formal proposals to present to the Navajo and Hopi tribal councils that will upgrade current lease conditions - environmentally and economically - with Navajo Generating Station and Peabody Western Coal company.
Meeting facilitators included former Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa and former Navajo Nation council officials Tulley Haswood and Milton Bluehouse, who presided over a full afternoon of presentations. One presentation was by Wahleah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition who shared possible renewable energy alternatives.
Johns explained how local Natives understand what major energy companies are after, how the energy is used and what that means for the local Native population who live on the reservation full-time and how the emissions will affect those living in that area.
Johns' presentation showed the Black Mesa area and where the current lease reopener is being proposed and how continued mining could potentially affect local communities healthwise. She also gave statistics on how Natives have already been affected with respiratory illnesses as a result. Information was also shared regarding CO2 (Carbon dioxide), which has the largest impact on global plant change.
Nitric oxide (NO) also contributes greatly to respiratory illnesses for Hopi and Navajo residents and both Peabody and NGS create NO emissions with their current plants.
With an over 50 percent unemployment rate for both Navajo and Hopi people, the Inter-tribal COALition group feels that the current royalty rates given to both tribes are not sufficient for the harmful effects that these chemicals produce in the generation of electrical power for outside entities and metropolitan communities hundreds of miles away from Navajo and Hopi lands.
The current ownership breakdown for the Navajo Generating Station is: Bureau of Reclamation 24.3 percent, Salt River Project 21.7 percent, Nevada Power 11.3 percent, Arizona Public Service 14.0 percent, Tucson Gas and Electric 7.5 percent with a final percentage held by Los Angeles Water and Power at 21.2 percent.
There is a possibility that the Hopi and Navajo Tribes could purchase the share held currently by Los Angeles Water and Power because they will have to sell their shares due to new regulations.
If this happens, Navajo and Hopi would be genuine shareholders in their own water and coal resource use, which is why the Inter-Tribal COALition group would like for both the Hopi and Navajo tribal councils to seriously consider purchasing the shares currently held by Los Angeles Water and Power.
Looking for solutions to natural resource management and keeping it clean and economically beneficial to both tribes is what the Inter-tribal COALition wants to develop and implement.
Haswood stated, "Both of our tribes, have a common problem and that common problem is Peabody ... This company has caused both the Hopi and Navajo people to butt heads when we need to join up to fight Peabody together. Both tribes have recently rejected the Peabody lease reopeners. I am happy for that. We need to convince each of our tribal councils to reevaluate how much we are worth ... in terms of water and electrical power. We undervalue ourselves and our resources. This has to stop."
Bluehouse added, "We have been disadvantaged in all of these power company negotiations. Over $10 billion dollars goes into these company coffers every year, and yet over 40 percent of Hopi and Navajo people do not have electricity or running water in their own homes. Something is wrong with that."
Nuvamsa commented, "As Hopis we need to stop dragging our feet and move towards cleaner and environmentally safe power plants because fossil fuels are damaging to our earth. We also recognize that one of the problems is that we do not have a formal Hopi tribal energy policy. We must educate our communities on alternative ways to move towards better self-sufficiency ... [B]ecause of all the recent political in-fighting, this important issue has fallen by the wayside. We have to wake up our Hopi Council and officers to the critical importance of this."
Recognizing the impact of on-going resource royalty rates and looking for possible solutions to Navajo and Hopi coal and water resources, Navajo presidential candidate Sharon Clahchischilliage from the St. Michaels chapter was at the meeting joined by Navajo Nation council candidate, Arlene Brown from Manuelito Chapter.
The Sierra Club was represented by Andy Bessler, Executive Director of the Flagstaff Office along with one of their summer interns. Roger Clark represented the Grand Canyon Trust.
The next meeting for Inter-tribal COALition is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 31 at the Hopi Veteran's Memorial Center. Lunch will be provided. Interested Hopi and Navajo tribal members are encouraged to attend.
For more information, call (928) 380-6677.
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