Saturday, January 9, 2010

Forgotten People: Victory for Black Mesa

Dine' Be' Iina' na' hil naa
Don Yellowman, President
P.O. Box 1661
Tuba City, AZ 86045
(928) 401-1777
Photo courtesy Forgotten People.
A Victory for Black Mesa - David v. Goliath
By The Forgotten People

A Victory for Black Mesa - David v. Goliath
update Jan. 10, 2010 5 pm
BLACK MESA, Ariz. -- On January 20, 2009, Forgotten People and three Chapters, Tonalea Chapter, Coal Mine Canyon Chapter and Leupp Chapter joined Californians for Renewable energy, Kendall Nutumya, Victor Masayesva, Jr., and Black Mesa Water Coalition to oppose the U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining (OSM) decision to approve a controversial life-of-mine permit for Peabody Coal Company's Black Mesa mine in the final days of the Bush Administration.

On January 5, 2010, Administrative Law Judge Robert Holt issued an order vacating Office of Surface Mining's (OSM's) approval of Peabody Coal Company's proposed permit modification based on violations of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). These NEPA violations were pointed out by the Nutumya's plaintiffs in their successful motion for summary judgment, and these same NEPA issues and others were also the subject of Forgotten People's appeal. The NEPA errors found by Judge Holt included a failure by OSM to prepare a new supplemental EIS and a failure to provide for meaningful public comment and review. The Judge also found OSM failed to develop and consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed action.

Judge Holt said "OSM prepared a final E1S, after making "substantial changes in the proposed action" in violation of NEPA and failed to "provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts." And, "Having considered Kenall Nutumya's motion, the other papers on file, and for good cause vacated OSM's decision to approve the permit. The March 15, 2010 hearing is canceled."

Chester Claw, President of Tonalea Chapter House said "All these years our people suffered from adverse health effects and pollution of the environment. I am speechless, at a loss for words about what Forgotten People and the other groups are doing against a big company while all the Navajo Nation has done for decades is think about money and forget about the people's health and the environment. This is 'David v. Goliath' and David prevailed."

Chester Claw continues, "Now we need to focus on Salt River Project and NGS so they get a transportation permit to carry Peabody's Kayenta coal like they do at all other mines to ensure safety. SRP and NGS must install warning lights and barrier arms so no more people and livestock die at the railroad crossings."

Don Yellowman, President of Forgotten People continues, "What SRP and NGS are doing with an unpermitted railroad is equivalent to an unsafe semi truck driving on a highway without warning lights and improperly functioning brakes. Are they doing this because the life of our people and livestock are less important?"

Forgotten People believes Judge Holt's decision to vacate Peabody's life of mine permit is a major collective victory. Forgotten People congratulates the Nutumya plaintiffs and their counsel and also expresses their appreciation for the good work of Forgotten People's attorney's, Mick Harrison, S. Dennison Smith, paralegal Marsha Monestersky and their colleagues at GreenFire Consulting for drafting a high quality appeal and for excellent trial preparation and discovery responses. Forgotten People and their legal team are prepared to defend this decision on appeal. Forgotten People also expresses their appreciation for attorney's David Abney, Sea Gnant, Sean Hecht and UCLA School of law for putting forth detailed NEPA and SMCRA arguments.

In light of US EPA initiatives, the uncertainty of the NGS, and an increasing awareness of climate change, Forgotten People urges the Navajo Nation Council to hold a public hearing on the Kayenta mine in a Hogan in Black Mesa, 'Vote No' to an extension of Peabody's Kayenta mine lease, develop an alternative energy policy, and 'Go Green'.


jim kalember said...

Vernon Masayesva and all who helped deserve the gratitude and thanks of anyone who lives in the Southwest or anywhere else on the planet.

larry g said...

Finally about time!! But, the Navajo Nation councils need to be more proactive to help stop this, and remember the old sayings of how the land is "Sacred"!! and not greed!!