Friday, November 29, 2002
Hopi, Navajo Groups Will be Represented in Mohave Decision
Article provided by To'nizh Oni'ani'
Special to The Daily Times
KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. Black Mesa Trust said Saturday that the grassroots Hopi and Navajo people of Black Mesa will be represented in the California Public Utilities Commission proceeding to decide whether to keep the Mohave Generating Station open.
"Until now, the people who live on Black Mesa have had no formal voice in the proceeding," said Vernon Masayesva, executive director of Black Mesa Trust.
"They are concerned about the impacts that the world's largest coal company is having on land, water, and other natural and cultural resources of Black Mesa. The governments of the Hopi tribe and the Navajo Nation are determined to keep the Black Mesa Mine open at all costs because they are afraid of losing coal and water mining royalties, but the people have a different view, and their voice needs to be heard."
On Nov. 6, Dr. Lon W. House of Water and Energy Consulting, a California-based consulting firm, filed a petition with the CPUC to intervene in the proceeding on behalf of Hopi Sinom and Din people who will be affected by the PUC's decision, which is expected in the spring 2003.
Hopi Sinom representation will be through Black Mesa Trust, a grassroots organization founded to stop industrial pumping of the N-aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for the Hopi tribe and the approximately 27,000 Navajos living on Black Mesa. The aquifer also feeds the springs and seeps that are critical to the religious observances of both tribes.
The Dineh people of Black Mesa will be represented through the grassroots organization To'nizh Oni'ani'.
In a May 17 application to the PUC, Mohave's majority owner, Southern California Edison, requested that Mohave be shut down. The Hopi tribe, the Navajo Nation, and Peabody Energy filed formal protests to the application, which also calls on California ratepayers to foot the bill for any expenses incurred by the owners to keep the plant open. The plant owners must spend $58 million in the next few months to begin installing air pollution control equipment required by a 1999 Consent Decree that resulted from lawsuit brought against the owners by Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club and others.
On Oct. 11 in Tuba City, Ariz., the PUC held a public hearing on the possible shutdown of the plant. Dozens of local Hopi and Navajo people testified at that hearing, which was chaired by PUC President Loretta Lynch.
Until now, however, grassroots people have had no formal opportunity to continue to be a part of the decision-making process.
In the petition to intervene, House said, "Water and Energy Consulting is representing the local Hopi Sinom and Din and associated Edison residential customers concerned about the local air quality, land restoration, and water resources of SCE's application, as well as revenue implications for the Navajo Nation and Hopi tribe, and the impacts on the local economy."
"Water and Energy Consulting will be presenting a perspective no other party in this proceeding is that of the local people. Most of the comments presented at the Pre-Hearing Conference in Tuba City were from the local citizens, which have been here-to-fore without representation in this hearing. Water and Energy Consulting will be introducing important factual issues regarding the localized environmental and human impacts of the plant and mine operation and presenting alternatives that would advance environmental protection and tribal revenues," he said.
In their protests, both tribes told the California PUC that shutting down Mohave would have grave financial implications for the Hopi and Navajo people, who jointly own the coal that supplies Mohave Generating Station.
Both tribes derive significant revenues from coal and water mining royalties.
The coal is mined by Peabody Energy, which uses more than 4,000 acre feet a year of N-aquifer water to transport the coal from Black Mesa to the power plant in Laughlin, Nev. The coal slurry pipeline is the only such operation in the United States.
The owners of Mohave and Peabody have been under pressure to find an alternative source of water for the slurry operation or an alternative means of transporting the coal, but so far have not come up with a plan.
House has extensive experience in utility negotiations, energy procurement, resource planning, and with regulatory agencies in California energy regulation, having been a college professor, and having worked for the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission before starting his own consulting firm. He has routinely provided policy directives and expert witness testimony and also has a great deal of personal knowledge of the area and issues, having lived in Oraibi when he was very young, and having grown up outside Farmington in the La Plata Valley.
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