Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 15, 2012

Native America Calling: Coal fired power plants poisoning Native Americans

Navajo Generating Station on the Navajo Nation
near Page, Ariz.
Native America Calling: Coal fired power plants poisoning Native Americans

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

On Native America Calling today, Louise Benally, Dine' of Big Mountain and Moapa Pauite Chairman William Anderson said coal fired power plants are poisoning Navajos, Paiutes and the people of the Southwest. Callers to the national live radio show from across the west agreed and said it is time for the toxic legacy of dirty fuel to end.

Program host Harlan McKosato of the Sac and Fox Nation, asked Benally about the term "clean coal."
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“It is a dirty lie. Nothing is clean about coal or extraction," Benally said. "There is no such thing as clean coal. Clean coal is not a reality.”

Benally described Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl's current attempts to steal Navajo water rights to the Colorado River and Little Colorado River. She also described the devastation from the Navajo Generating Station at Page, Ariz., fired by coal from Black Mesa, on Navajoland.

"They are killing the earth. There is no respect for the earth, they are killing the earth in the name of greed," said Benally, among those who have resisted relocation for decades on Black Mesa, where Peabody Coal continues to mine coal and poison the air, water and land.

Moapa Paiute Chairman William Anderson said there are widespread health problems, including respiratory problems and thyroid problems, because of the Reid Gardner coal fired power plant in Nevada.

Chairman Anderson said the brown cloud over the power plant "is what we breathe everyday." He described how the dirty industries try to buy off the people with the promises of money, roads and more, while ignoring the longterm and devastating health results of coal fired power plants.

"This is one of the dirtiest power plants in the nation," Chairman Anderson said, adding that "fugitive dust" is what Paiutes breathe from the evaporation ponds.

McKosato said the devastation is described in the new film, "An Ill Wind Blows in Moapa," about the Reid Gardner coal fired power plant and what it is doing to the Moapa Paiutes.

Benally pointed out that Navajo President Ben Shelly sent Navajo Attorney General Harrison Tsosie to Washington in February to try and do away with US EPA clean air laws on the Navajo Nation.

Benally said jobs are not the reason for these coal fired power plants. "It is the need for greed," said Benally, referring to the leases signed by elected Navajo leaders. Benally said because of these power plants, Navajos on Black Mesa are now the victims, with respiratory diseases, diabetes, heart problems, cancer and birth defects.

"It is not regulated," Benally said. She said those jobs, resulting in poisoning Navajos, could be green jobs. "But the Navajo government opposes that openly." Recently, Navajo President Ben Shelly's line item veto of green jobs in the Navajo Nation budget.

Meanwhile, while elected Navajo leaders block the Dine' movement for green jobs, Benally said the medicine plants are being poisoned by the coal fired power plant emissions. The air in the region, once pristine, is now heavy with the dark haze.

"If you drive over the ridge to look over Navajo country, you see the brown cloud," she said. "It is toxifying the earth like we don't have a future. We want a future."

"We will continue to fight for what we believe, Mother Earth and Mother Nature."

One caller from Zuni Pueblo, N.M., said Zunis are being sickened and poisoned by the nearby Coronado Generating Station in St. Johns, Ariz., because they are in the wind's path from this power plant.

Another caller from Taos, N.M., pointed out that Peabody Coal is "the main culprit," poisoning people across America.

One Hopi caller described how the Mohave Generating Station depleted the Navajo aquifer, beneath the Hopi and Navajo lands, before it was shut down along with one of the two Peabody coal mines on Black Mesa. Pointing out the loss of pristine water and the diseases cause, he described how the Mohave power plant, which depleted the aquifer with a coal slurry to Nevada, was shut down in 2005.

Still, Peabody Coal's Kayenta mine remains open, and sends coal to Navajo Generating Station in nearby Page, Ariz., which poisons Navajoland and the Southwest. The Navajo Generating Station is operated by the Salt River Project in the Phoenix Valley, which was protested by Navajo and O'odham during the American Legislative Exchange Council gathering in November.

McKosato said neither the Navajo Nation nor the coal industry responded to requests to be on today's show.

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