Letter: Good faith or bad intentions?

To the editor,

The Hopi Tribal Council has made a decision to move ahead with a coal sequestration study to demonstrate that the "geologic conditions in the Black Mesa Basin are highly favorable for the safe, long-term storage of C02 emissions from nearby coal-fired power plants on the Colorado Plateau."

The location of the test site is six miles southeast from Cow Springs inside the Hopi Partitioned Land, near the uranium tailing dumping site.

Scientists have developed a way to capture C02 that is produced by burning coal, but they cannot tell us what could happen when liquefied C02 is pumped under tremendous pressure into the ground. Will the geologic strata and the water reservoir, selected to store the C02 keep it safely sequestered, or will it migrate and seep into other aquifers, including the Navajo Aquifer?

Hopi and Navajo people have reason to suspect that the sequestration model, which will be developed to monitor the sequestered C02, cannot accurately predict the migration of C02, just like the Navajo Aquifer model, which does not show a true picture of the extent of damages done to ground waters in the Black Mesa Basin.

The Arizona Geological Survey estimates that deep saline aquifer can store over 20 billion metric tons of C02, making Black Mesa Basin an ideal location for sequestering C02 from nearby coal-fired plants that emit over 65,000 tons of C02 annually.

However, capturing C02 from coal-fired plants is very costly and requires huge amounts of water, and there might not be enough water available to plant owners, according to John Coggins, Manager of Resource Planning at Salt River Project. He is quoted in Spectrum Magazine, saying, "It is not likely that there are enough water supplies available to any of our plants to allow for double the water use." Yet, SRP is the principal player in the Hopi C02 project.

The secondary objective is to get a snapshot of resources under Black Mesa. Scientists say there is much as "21 billion short tons" of coal buried under Black Mesa, according to the Arizona Energy Report.

The 1991 Hopi Mineral and Energy Report indicates that sufficient quantities of methane lie buried in various coal beds. Methane is a valuable gas that can be used as a fuel to operate electric generating stations.

The project is expected to produce valuable data, which the Hopi Tribe can use to develop an energy policy that will guide future development of natural resources. Without an energy policy to guide decision-making, the C02 project should not have been allowed. For this reason, I fully support a Minerals Inventory, but it should be done in conjunction with the Navajo Nation, without the involvement of energy companies, and without tying it to the C02 project.

The bottom line question that has yet to be answered is this: Did the Hopi Tribe actually want the C02 Sequestration on Hopi land, or are they using the sequestration project as a vehicle to collect mineral data?

If the latter is true, then the Hopi Tribal Council is acting in "bad-faith", and this can have serious consequences for our Tribe.

SRP has set up a National Energy Technology Lab and assembled over a dozen scientists to conduct the study, relying on a "good faith" relationship with the Hopi Tribe.

In the worst case scenario, SRP, Peabody, and other companies could be accused of trying to secure federal monies under false pretenses.

Vernon Masayesva

Black Mesa Trust

Kykotsmovi, Ariz.

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