THANKS to everyone who helped us make our point to the Office of Surface Mining yesterday! OSM disconnected their phone line because so many people flooded them with calls!
This is just the begining of this battle, we are more determined than ever to not allow our homelands to be turned into “minor” decisions for coal interests! I hope you will continue to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and the “front line” communities that are taking a stand against these major entities!
Please help us get this update out and again thank you!!
Co-Director, Black Mesa Water Coalition
PO Box 613 Flagstaff, AZ 86002-613
phone: (928) 213-5909
fax #: (928) 213-5905
Friends of Black Mesa,
I’ve copied the press release we sent out this morning that explains the situation with OSM’s permit for Peabody. The meeting yesterday was extremely powerful, including a big rally and protest outside, hundreds of calls into OSM’s office, and a banner hang. Black Mesa Water Coalition also generated good media, including page 2 of the Denver Post this morning, two pieces in Grist, Gallup Independent, SF Chronicle, Forbes and AZ Daily Sun and others from an AP Story, Solve Climate, Indian Country Today, the Navajo Times, mentions in a Politico and Huffpost piece and a bunch of radio interviews.
But it still looks likely that OSM will grant Peabody a life-of-mine permit, expand their mining area, and give them renewed access to Navajo Aquifer water…If any of you have ideas about how to suspend or block the permit, please let us know. We’re running out of time…
For immediate release: Tuesday December 9th, 2008
Contacts: Wahleah Johns, (928) 637-5281 and Chelsea Chee, (928) 637-5592
* Hi-res, rights-free photos available at www.flickr.com (tagged: navajo hopi denver protest) *
Navajo & Hopi Tribal Leaders & Members Urge Office of Surface Mining to Suspend Decision on Peabody Coal’s “Black Mesa Project”
Denver, CO “A delegation of 35 Navajo and Hopi tribal members, including Hopi Tribal Chairman Ben Nuvamsa, met with the U.S. Office of Surface Mining (OSM) at their Denver headquarters in hopes of delaying OSM’s “Record of Decision” until the next Presidential Administration takes office. The “Record of Decision” (ROD) is the final stage of the permitting process for the proposed “Black Mesa Project,” which would grant Peabody Coal Company a “life-of-mine” permit–expanded mining operations and rights to tap the fresh waterof the Navajo aquifer.
For three hours the Navajo and Hopi representatives met with OSM officials and presented documents and petitions ratified by their communities that urge OSM to suspend their decision. Their unified statement read, “Although we represent two different tribes, we come today united to protect our shared land and water. Water is the life source to both our peoples, and Peabody has failed to understand this connection. If the Office of Surface Mining grants a permit to Peabody, our way of life and spiritual balance will be severely disrupted and altered. Currently, we are already suffering the damage this industry has caused over the past 30 years. We believe OSM has been negligent in fulfilling the NEPA process, and if OSM issues a “Record of Decision” that would be a breach of the Federal Trust Responsibility. United we ask the Office of Surface Mining to stop the “Record of Decision” process.”
OSM Western Regional Director Al Klein stated, “The Environmental Impact Statement process is finalized, the decision before us is very minor, and we are on track to release it on Dec. 15.” The tribal representatives expressed the weight of this decision and that it is not a “minor” decision. They also gave testimony to the many aspects of their life, culture, and spirituality that would be severely impacted if the project was approved. Gordon Isaac, a Navajo tribal member and veteran of the Gulf War told the officials, “Peabody is not just digging into topsoil. They are tearing into people’s lifeways.”
While most of the delegation was inside meeting with OSM officials, 60 local supporters accompanied the rest of the Navajo and Hopi delegation outside to rally, protest, and show support, including dropping a 10ft by 16ft banner from a nearby parking garage that read, “Navajo & Hopi Say NO COAL MINING!” Support was not only outside of the building. OSM’s telephone and fax lines were bombarded with calls of support and written requests to postpone the ROD from across the country.
After listening to three hours of emotional testimony, OSM was asked if they would simply consider suspending the record of decision. Director Klein replied, “We have a set of regulations, and when a company puts on paper in their application how they will fulfill the requirements, we do not have discretion. We have to grant them a permit…At this point we will not be changing the calender of events on this decision.”
This decision comes in the midst of Hopi political turmoil. Chairman Nuvamsa came to represent the Hopi and Tewa people in the battle to protect the water and lands from further coal mining in Black Mesa, AZ. “Due to lack of representation on the Hopi Tribal Council, the Village of Tewa was never afforded the opportunity to participate in any discussion of the Draft EIS as it applies to Hopi people and land,” stated Chairman Nuvamsa.
“Hopis believe that this time of year is a very sacred and sensitive time that prevents us from stepping outside our home area, because it’s the time of renewal for all life. We are taught not to be disruptive and confrontational during this time. It is such a big sacrifice for us to be here in Denver, but OSM continues to release critical decisions during this time; so many of our people have not been able to to voice their grave concerns about this Black Mesa Project. We feel an obligation to our families, clans, and future, so we have come here despite our cultural restrictions.” says Racheal Povatah, a Hopi tribal member.
Navajo and Hopi citizen’s were given 45 days to comment on a revised “Black Mesa Project” Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and were never offered a public commenting period. Requests for commenting period extensions were denied by OSM as well as requests for OSM to come to Navajo and Hopi lands for question and answer meetings.
Arizona Congressman, and leading candidate for Secretary of Interior in the Obama Administration, RaÃºl M. Grijalva has asked current Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to suspend further consideration of Peabody’s permit. “At present, OSM is rushing to approve a life-of-mine permit, first without making the permit revisions sufficiently available for public review, and then without adequate environmental review.”
“Mining at Black Mesa has caused springs on Hopi lands to dry up and jeopardized the sole source of drinking water for many Hopis and Navajos,” stated Grijalva. “The Secretary, as the trustee for Native American tribes, must ensure that mining is done responsibly on tribal lands and that tribes actually want mining to occur. This project does not meet that test.”
In addition, the power plant that previously used Black Mesa Mine coal shut down, and there is no other proposed use for the coal whose mining would be permitted by OSM. As a result, there is no actual proposed project involving Black Mesa Mine coal to be analyzed– making the pending decision not only premature–but in direct conflict with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. According to former Hopi Tribal Chairman, Vernon Masayesva, “No customer means no project â€“ you can’t do an EIS unless you have a real project, yet OSM is going ahead with getting a life-of-mine permit.”
Black Mesa Navajo and Hopi residents are concerned about how this project will impact the future of their homelands given the history of Peabody’s unwise use of the Navajo Aquifer. “For decades coal and water from our lands have been taken to power Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Yet, we have have suffered the loss of our sole source drinking water to accommodate the over consumption of these areas,” says Wahleah Johns, Co-Director of Black Mesa Water Coalition.
Black Mesa is the ancestral homelands to thousands of Navajo and Hopi families and is regarded as a sacred mountain to the Navajo people and plays an integral role in the cultural survival for the future generations of both the Navajo and Hopi people.
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