Hopi Tribe & Navajo Nation: Fair Energy Transition Required
Navajo Nation, Hopi Tribe Advocates Pushing For A Fair Outcome Of The Energy Transition In Arizona
Decades of coal mining fueled efforts by Navajo and Hopi to press for federal intervention for environmental justice
July 22, 2021 (IEEFA) – As the energy transition is gaining momentum worldwide, the IEEFA (The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis) documentation “Local Leadership, Global Change: Navajo Nation & Hopi Tribe” focuses on how indigenous people are led Organizations are raising awareness of the need to move away from a fossil fuel economy.
The documentary revolves around the Navajo and Hopi tribesmen who live on reservations in northern Arizona. The tribal areas are known for their natural and cultural resources. As the local economy became increasingly dependent on coal mining, tribal and community organizations pushed for environmental justice and support from federal agencies including the Department of Energy (DOE), the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The community has changed dramatically since Peabody Energy began mining coal in the Black Mesa region of the Navajo Nation in the early 1960s. Black Mesa’s water resources have declined at an alarming rate, particularly flows from local sources. The crisis spurred the community to seek shelter for the waters, which are an integral part of the Hopi and Navajo traditions, and to found the non-profit organization Tó Nizhóní Ání (“Holy Water Speaks”) * by Nicole Horseherder.
Peabody operated the Kayenta Mine from 1973 to 2019 and the Black Mesa Mine from 1965 to 2005. Under a controversial agreement from 1964, the Black Mesa Mine could use millions of gallons of water from the Navajo aquifer to make coal via a pipeline to the Mohave. slurry power plant in Laughlin, Nevada. Water used in the transportation of coal caused the water level of the Navajo Aquifer to drop, affecting springs and seepage. Tó Nizhóní Ání has been advocating the Navajo Aquifer and the surrounding area for around 20 years since the damage from the Peabody coal mine in Black Mesa became apparent.
The mines have closed, but the frontline communities are working to ensure that reclamation takes place. Former Hopi chairman Ben Nuvamsa is pushing for a major overhaul of the Kayenta mine lease to achieve a more favorable outcome, such as a comprehensive environmental review to restore land and groundwater and include tribal participation in the decision. Manufacturing process to ensure that mine areas and land are fully restored.
Percy Deal, a retired Navajo County supervisor, and Horseherder keep community members informed of the progress. With the possibility that Peabody could file for bankruptcy again, community leaders are calling on the federal government to take steps to ensure that the land is actually reclaimed.
There are hopeful signs from the federal government; Wahleah Johns, a local Navajo who worked with Tó Nizhóní Ání to break free from a fossil fuel economy on the reserve, has been appointed senior advisor to the DOE’s Indian energy policy and programs office.
Reclaiming the land from a fossil fuel economy is a first step; The transition to a renewable energy based economy that honors the cultural values, teachings and language of the community is the goal.
Education will be crucial. Horseherder has called the IEEFA reports, which detail the economic and financial implications, “weapons against persistent fossil fuels.” It is worth noting here that the word “weapon” corresponds to the word “knowledge” in the Navajo language.