Native groups want federal Build Back Better bill to prioritize water and the environment

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Navajo clean energy advocates hope that when the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which is being debated in Congress, is approved that it will include resources for the Navajo Nation.

Nicole Horseherder, executive director of the environmental group To Nizhoni Ani, said protecting native lands is an environmental justice priority.

“As we transition into a new greener economy with Build Back Better Initiatives, it’s imperative that our people of the Navajo Nation and other rural Arizonans are not left out of the bill,” she said. “Our survivability depends on it.”

Horseherder offered her comments during a zoom news conference with other Northern Arizona leaders Nov. 2.

Congressman Tom O’Halleran, Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarity, Western Grid Group Director Amanda Ormond, Solar United Neighbors of Arizona Director Bret Fenshaw and Arizona Trails Association Veterans Outreach Coordinator Michael Chappell spoke about their support of BBBA that would bring renewable energy and jobs to northern Arizona.

Horseherder said the Navajo people needs to build a nation that prioritizes water and the environment.

“We need to build an economy that reflects today’s situation,” she said.

According to Horseherder, the water situation on Navajo has been bad for years.

“We’ve seen it talked about, but we haven’t seen any resources that the Navajo Nation is receiving from the feds,” she said.

Horseherder said Navajo and Hopi tribal members have helped prop up energy and water in the state for the past 50 years through Navajo Generating Station.

“It’s time for them to give back,” she said.

According to Horseherder, the best way the government can give back is by making sure the water from the Upper Colorado River Basin is available and accessible to them.

She recounted how Peabody Coal used up Navajo water for decades.

“We need to act that we are in a critical water crisis. We have water shortages now. We need quality and accessible water,” she said.

Additionally, Horseherder said many on the Navajo reservation were not able to plant corn for the past couple years because the monsoons are not reliable.

O’Halleran said when BBBA passes that it will be the largest investment in history for expanding clean energy. He said investments in clean renewable energy will create good paying jobs that will revitalize rural and tribal Arizona economies and address climate change.

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