Navajo Nation Public Hearing on Energy Policy

By Anthony Fleg, Native Health Initiative

The location for last night’s public hearing on the Navajo Nation’s proposed energy policy was fitting for political theatrics – held at the UNM Student Union Building’s theater, the stage was set for Navajo Nation officials to make their case for the energy policy as currently drafted.

The document at the center of discussion was the draft of the Navajo Nation Energy Policy, completed June 20th, 2011 (see copy of draft here). The UNM meeting was the last of the public hearings on the policy, meetings meant to gather public input on the draft.

The Attorney General for the Navajo Nation, Harrison Tsosie, reminded the audience that this document was not a law, regulation or statute. “Instead, this policy is to serve as a vision statement for Navajo leaders and for the outside world, to then guide future decisions and laws and to ensure that in the future the Federal Government is not deciding the direction of our Dine’ people.”

There have been four prior attempts to develop such an energy policy by the Navajo Nation, with the only document that made it past draft stage being the 1980 policy. The current administration, under President Ben Shelly has made energy policy a priority.

The document supports development of renewable energy, with Navajo Nation officials admitting that in the past years there has been no clear direction, and therefore, no significant strides in this realm.

Coal and uranium appear to be the biggest points of contention in the draft policy, judging from the audience members who spoke during the public response section of the hearing.

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Navajo President Joe Shirley Approves Controversial Water Settlement

By Tracy Dingmann

On Nov. 19, as expected, outgoing Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley approved a settlement that gives Navajo and Hopi tribes limited rights to water from the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

Many members of the Navajo tribe had vehemently opposed approval of the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement, saying the agreement didn’t go far enough in securing water rights for Navajos. Critics also said that the the question of whether to approve of the settlement should have been decided by all Navajos, not just Navajo politicians.

Clearly New Mexico guest poster Anthony Fleg gave good background about the actions leading up to the Navajo Nation Council of Delegates vote on the settlement on Nov. 4.  Shirley signed the agreement days later, following the council’s approval.

For even more background about opposition to the settlement,  here’s a link to a locally-made film about the settlement and the struggle for equitable and fair water rights on the Navajo Nation. The film was made by Concerned Citizens For Dine Water Rights, a grassroots effort for and by Dine people.

The Demise of Desert Rock

This is a must read by Laura Paskus at the High Country News:

This March, after seven years of planning and with millions of dollars poured into attorneys, consultants and travel junkets, Sithe Global not only delayed the (Desert Rock) project once again — beyond 2015 this time — but said it is considering changing it extensively. In June, the company gave up the only funding it had secured for construction of the project, when it allowed a $3.2 billion industrial revenue bond and tax break from San Juan County, N.M., to expire. And now, with its champion (Navajo Nation President) Shirley stepping down because of term limits this fall, Desert Rock’s days are likely numbered.

The life and death of Desert Rock