Monday, March 2, 2009

Black Mesa mine

I know the Mohave Generation Station. I also know it has been closed because for years and after many warnings they kept polluting the air along the Colorado river. Lung problems and allergies had risen dramatically in the area. The closing had as a consequence that the Black Mesa Mine was also closed. A good thing but then a coup at Hopi and the last bad deeds of the Bush administration made Peabody the owner of all the coal on Black Mesa whether they mined it or not. Then a petition came which mixed the mine issue with the land settlement issue

In part this petition is timely. And in part it is opportunistic and attempts to attach an old problem to a very real immediate problem. One element of the petition is timely because of the recent approval by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) of Peabody's life of mine (LOM) permit. Linking this immediate concern to the efforts to repeal the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 is a bit like mixing apples and oranges.

At least the two issues should be separated into two petitions. It's always best to have a petition deal with one very specific issue. Dual or multi-purpose petitions run the risk of discouraging potential signers because they may embrace one issue while having concerns about one of the other issues on the petition The LOM permit is improper and contrary to the best interests of the tribes, especially the Hopi Tribe. But, the current powers that be at Hopi do not agree with this assessment because they have been, once again, led down a primrose path by Peabody, by OSM, and even by their own General Counsel, Scott Canty. Peabody is and always has been a sinister organization that thrives on exploiting the resources of the tribes and paying very little (in comparison to what they would have to pay off reservation) to the tribes in return.

A former Chief of Staff to one Hopi Chairman and Special Assistant to the most recent Hopi Chairman believes and I quote: that it would have been in the best interest of the tribe to block the LOM, at least until it could be fully and carefully reviewed and understood and presented to the Hopi people. It would seem appropriate for the tribe to take back control of its own natural resources and if it was going to be in the coal business to do it as a competitor of Peabody instead of as a victim. Or, at least it would have been better to gain a negotiating advantage and be able to be competitive...make Peabody compete and pay fair prices for Hopi's coal.

As it stands now, under the LOM, Peabody would control all of Hopi coal and won't have to pay Hopi hardly anything unless they start mining again. They have enough coal at the Kayenta mine to last 20 to 30 years. So, they don't have to mine at Black Mesa again for 2 or 3 decades. That's why it was clear to us that OSM's rushing of the LOM was only to get this in under the wire before the Obama administration took over.

The petition attached to the email is a misleading and opportunistic attempt to combine two issues. It distorts and/or distracts from the potential serious impacts of allowing the LOM to survive so they can promote the repeal of the settlement act. Yes, it is important to "REVERSE THE DOI/OSM DECISION TO GRANT PEABODY COAL A LIFE OF MINE PERMIT ON BLACK MESA" but I don't agree that this is directly connected to "THE METHODS OF GENOCIDE BY POPULATION REMOVAL AND COAL MINING EXPANSIONS" or that it is justification for reviving the plea for the "REPEALTHE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND SETTLEMENT ACT OF 1974 P.L. 93-531)."

They've mixed apples and oranges. They should separate the issues. For one thing, since the closure of the Mohave Generating Station a few years ago, the mining at Black Mesa has, to the best of my knowledge, stopped. Granted, the LOM would incorporate the unpermitted Black Mesa Mine into the permitted Kayenta Mine and thus authorize the re-opening of the Black Mesa Mine...that is if Peabody can find a customer for the Black Mesa coal.

I will not deny, however, that there always has been and remains a direct connection between Peabody's dominance and control on Black Mesa and the plight of the people at Big Mountain. The entire fiasco for the last 150 years has been all about exploiting natural resources on Black Mesa. And it remains today as a great cause of the factionalism in Hopi tribal politics. Peabody must go.

Anyway, it's very complicated and the Black Mesa Project Environmental Impact Statement is an 800 page highly technical document that no normal person, including the tribal council representatives, can understand. It was railroaded through by OSM with the support of the tribe's General Counsel, the Hopi Energy Team, and their consultant/hack. OSM steadfastly ignored the pleas of the Chairman of the Tribe to delay a decision. They repeatedly claimed they had appropriately consulted with the "Tribe" by virtue of "consulting" with the Energy Team's paid consultant who was NOT an official of the Tribe and who was marching to the drum beat of Scott Canty and the Energy Team. There has never been an official position taken formally by the Tribal Council as a legislative body, only by the General Counsel, their consultant, and individual members of the Energy Team.

So, if the LOM is left to stand as is, the tribe has just had all rights to their coal stripped from them forever with no assurances of this sell-out even generating any real revenue.

Once again the Bush administration pushed through another 11th hour project for the singular purpose of fattening Big Energy at the expense of the tribes.

There are current actions being taken in federal court, evidentiary hearings being scheduled, etc., in an orchestrated attempt to reverse the LOM. So, we have to hold our breath until 2010.

And remember, there is no such thing as "clean coal."

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