Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, Sept. 27

Informal conference needed to answer questions

To the editor:

The Kayenta Mine Permit Application covering the period from July 6, 2010 through July 5, 2015 must be denied or approved with specific enforceable conditions.

One major reason for denial of the permit it failure by Peabody Western Coal Co, who is the applicant and operator of the Kayenta Mine, to explain how it proposes to reclaim over 45 billion gallons of pristine water that was pumped to operate coal slurry operation from 1970 to the end of 2005.

The U.S. Surface Mining Control Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1979, mandates the applicant to submit a reclamation plan and bond to demonstrate compliance with reclamation standards of the SMCRA.

Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (OSMRE), an enforcement agency set up under the Us Department of Interior, has failed to require Peabody to meet its obligation to protect our natural resources ever since SMCRA became law.

The intent of the bond is to make sure Peabody does not walk away from the wreck that it is causing on Black Mesa.

The OSMRE has made a policy decision that the reclamation plan and bond is not justified because the agency has "irrefutable" data to show that over-drafting of water stored in the Navajo Aquifer since 1970 has not and will not cause "significant material damage". Mining is expected to end in 2023.

OSMRE does not have authority to make arbitrary decisions. It has to enforce the law and its implementation regulations.

With so much uncertainty about the groundwater modeling, it is incumbent to OSMRE, as a trustee of Hopi and Navajo natural resources, to require Peabody to post a bond that can be used to reclaim the waters.

There are other major deficiencies in the mine plan and OSMRE's environmental assessments that I am sure other will be bringing up. Public comment period ends Oct 22 2011.

SMCRA and its implementation regulation provide a rich source of tools that citizens can use to make sure OSMRE reclaim and enforce the law. One tool is called an informal conference. This mandates OSMRE to come here to answer questions and solicit comments from grassroots people if requested.

Vernon Masayesva

Executive Director

Black Mesa Trust


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