Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dineh, Hopi and Allies (including Colorado AIM) Confront U.S Government Officials

Colorado AIM Leadership Council member, Shannon Francis, challenging U.S. government officials over the desecration of Dineh and Hopi territory.

For immediate release: Tuesday December 9th, 2008
Contacts: Wahleah Johns, (928) 637-5281 and Chelsea Chee, (928) 637-5592

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 water of the Navajo aquifer..

For three hours the Navajo and Hopi representatives met with OSM officials, 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, that it is not a "minor" decision and 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.

For more information, visit -
Black Mesa Water Coaltion