Hopi reverses approval of carbon capture project

KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. - In a narrow vote taken on Sept. 14, the Hopi Tribal Council voted 8-7 to rescind a previous decision from July in support of a carbon capture and storage project on Hopi tribal land.

Hopi Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa voted to break the 7-7 tie.

Voting in favor to continue the carbon capture storage project were Kykotsmovi representatives Nada Talayumptewa, Phillip Quochytewa and Norman Honanie; Bacavi representatives Mike Puhuyesva and Arvin Puhuyesva; and Upper Moencopi representatives Everett Calnimptewa and Danny Humetewa.

Voting against the measure were Kykotsmovi representative Danny Honanie; Vice Chairman Herman Honanie; Sipaulovi representatives George Mase, Cedric Kuwaninvaya and Alph Secakuku; Upper Moencopi representatives Leroy Sumatskuku and Wayne Kuwanhoiyoma; and Chairman Shingoitewa.

Absent that day was Bacavi representative Velma Kelyesva.

The Hopi Council met late Monday afternoon, with the full tribal Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who made a presentation expressing their united opposition against the carbon exploratory project.

The DNR representatives cited specific concerns, including that there was no original memorandum of understanding (MOU) attached as a formal support document to the resolution submitted by Talayumptewa as Chairman of the Energy and Water Team in July. They also pointed out that their DNR directors were never asked for input on the original project assessment; that the Navajo Nation Intergovernmental Relations Committee had formally opposed the Hopi project by resolution; and most recently, that a report dated June 16 from the U.S. Government Accountability Office raised serious concerns about the viability and safety of carbon sequestration projects including economic, technical and legal challenges.

Hopi DNR Water Resources Supervisor Gail Honanie commented, "Carbon capture and storage projects like this, are in their infancy. [Everyone] we talked to on the outside for both tribal and general industry information [raised] questions of liability, project man hour costs, and there are no federal regulations about a project like this. [Neither] the Hopi Council [or] Ms. Joelynn Roberson as the Water and Energy Team consultant bothered to consult with our departments at the Hopi Tribe though this project has been a year in the works. The next thing we heard, the council had already passed the resolution."

Also expressed was the issue that the Hopi Tribe currently has no formal Hopi Tribal Energy Policy in place to help guide decisions like this and that there was still a 1979 Hopi Tribal Council resolution and moratorium on energy and natural resource projects that prohibited energy resource exploration and development of all types on Hopi tribal lands.

Chairman Shingoitewa also stated for the record that there had been no public outreach or education in the Hopi villages regarding the project, though the scope of work outlined in the project proposal stated that there was to be ongoing information for the public. Neither the Hopi Energy/Water Team or Roberson produced any documentation for Hopi Council record to verify they had held any formal Hopi public information meetings in the past year.

If the vote had been approved, it would have allowed the Hopi Tribe to participate in a publicly funded U.S. Department of Energy program with a private group to investigate the viability of commercial-scale geologic carbon-dioxide (CO2) storage in deep underground formation, which, according to a letter dated June 16 to the Hopi Tribe, "that legal uncertainty and potential liability exists, that carbon sequestration projects such as this are 'not a mature industry' and that information about such projects is lacking, that commercial projects like this are about 15 years away, that a large scale system for carbon capture presents a formidable technical challenge," among other mostly environmental concerns.

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