MAC: Mines and Communities

Carol Snyder Halberstadt, coordinator & cofounder

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

--Carol Snyder Halberstadt, coordinator & cofounder
Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land
A nonprofit enterprise of the Dine' (Navajo) of Black Mesa, Arizona Wool & Weavings Fair Traded from the Source (tm)

Feel free to plagiarize from my comments:

Coal is the most polluting fuel.

Air pollution toxics from fossil-powered electric power plants kill about 30,000 Americans per year and sicken hundreds of thousands.

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30,000 is about 10 times the number killed in the World Trade Center attack of Sept 11. Cumulative electric consumption is about 30 times present annual consumption.

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Thus to date, approximately 300 times more Americans have been killed by electric power plant pollution than were killed by terrorism, so if we are rational and value life, we will spend 300 times more effort on stopping electric generator toxics and reducing coal consumption than we spend on stopping terrorism.

Coal contributes more to global climate change than other fossil fuels due to the higher levels of carbon dioxide per unit of energy. A study of the impact of climate change on California concluded that between loss of snowpack and rising sea levels causing collapse of the Bay Delta, California could lose 65% of its fresh water supply, and there would be 70% more fire. [Sierra Yodeler November 1996]

Bad weather and resulting crop failures were contributing factors to the economic collapse of North Korea. 40% of the land of China is undergoing desertification. A Chinese dust storm in 2001 was so big it dropped dust 7,000 miles away over an area reaching from Canada to Arizona. Millions of tons of topsoil have been lost, which will take centuries to replace. []

The Pentagon has concluded that climate change could cause food shortages, "decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts", and disrupted access to energy supplies, resulting in war and "a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth's environment". [An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security By Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall,] For more info on climate see

It would be criminal to ignore these warnings and continue contributing to this threat to our security by burning more coal as if there's no tomorrow.

When there is an imbalance in supply and demand, why is it that the only choices presented are between which options to increase supply, and no choices for reducing demand are considered? Why are efficiency-increasing technologies and demand reduction never allowed to compete fairly with jacking up supply, even on a free market basis? Could it be because they are typically more cost-effective and lots of supply options would fail to stand up to the competition? [see Amory Lovins on negawatts]

US electric consumption in 2000 was over 9 times that of 1950, 5 times as much per person []. We're not 5 times better off now than we were then, and we were not backward deprived people when we were using 1/5 what we're using now. Thus eliminating all coal consumption by reducing electric consumption by half (the portion currently generated via coal) is a reasonable option, especially given that we have more energy-efficient technologies available now and there was plenty of waste in 1950.

Smart retrofits have saved as much as 90% of lighting electric consumption with no reduction in service or comfort [Climate: Making Sense and Making Money, Rocky Mountain Institute,].

Under no circumstances should Peabody be allowed operate using Black Mesa water. The people of Black Mesa have suffered more than enough from the expropriation of their resources by outsiders. This is desert country, where water is life, so taking water is taking life. The Southwest has been under a severe drought so water is more precious now than ever. Peabody must also not be allowed to consume drinking-quality water from any other places such as the Coconino Aquifer.

It is insane to use pure high-quality water to ship coal in the desert. Peabody can use alternative transportation methods as every other coal mine in the country has been able to. Coal-washing and other purported "needs" for water must only be approved using reclaimed water, and only after an investigation of non-water alternatives and steady-state recirculating technologies to reuse the same water many times on-site.

Pumping of the Navajo Aquifer must stop immediately and no pumping or mining must be allowed until Peabody has (1) fully compensated everyone adversely affected by past disruption of the waters and (2) posted a bond sufficient in size to compensate everyone for future adverse effects arising from the consequences of past disruption and (3) fully restored the groundwaters to their naturally functioning order so no more disruption occurs in the future.

The substantial adverse impacts of additional mining on the watersheds, groundwaters, landscapes, flora, fauna, societies, and cultures of Black Mesa, and the illegitimacy of the means by which Peabody obtained its prior permit, require that Peabody's request must be handled as a new permit application, not a revision.

Peabody's application is unacceptably inadequate. A complete Environmental Impact Statement and Endangered Species Act review are required.

No mining shall be allowed until Peabody proves its application is in compliance with all federal, state, tribal, and local regulations at its sole expense and liability. A condition of the permit must be that if any breach is discovered then mining must stop until the problem is corrected.

Certain traditional Hopi and Navajo ceremonies consist of visiting a sequence of sacred sites to give offerings and prayers. Some of these ceremonies can no longer be conducted since the sites have been strip-mined out of existence. By what authority is it right to deny one group of people the ability to practice their religion in order that another group may enjoy a few additional physical comforts and save a bit of money?

The Navajo at Big Mountain were subject to the biggest forced removal (ie ethnic cleansing) of Indian people since the Cherokee Trail of Tears of 1838 and the Navajo Long Walk of 1864, in order to clear the land for mining.

"The forcible relocation of over 10,000 Navajo people is a tragedy of genocide and injustice that will be a blot on the conscience of this country for many generations."
-- Leon Berger, who resigned as Executive Director of the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Commission

"I feel that in relocating these elderly people, we are as bad as the Nazis that ran the concentration camps in World War II."
-- Roger Lewis, federally appointed Relocation Commissioner who resigned

John Boyden, a white lawyer instrumental in setting up the forced relocation program, and instrumental in setting up the Hopi Tribal Council itself against the wishes of the majority of the Hopi people, made more than $2 million working for both the Tribal Council and Peabody Coal, as a sweetheart stripmine lease was "negotiated".

Thus the existing coal and water contracts are illegitimate, and the subject of your proceeding should not be how to extract more electricity, coal, and water from indigenous lands but how to pay reparations to the tribes.

Some Navajo can trace their ancestry at Big Mountain on Black Mesa for 25 genermations. That's longer than the USA has been in existence. The Hopi have been documented to live at Black Mesa for at least 800 years, That's many times longer than Arizona or the OSM have been in existence. Depriving them of water threatens to destroy their ability to survive in their homeland. That would be a violation of international law. Their human rights and land rights take precedence over the right of people to pay a low fee to flip on switches to live a life of comparative luxury, or the right of corporations to make any profit.

For details see:

Dark Days on Black Mesa by John Dougherty, Phoenix New Times April 24 1997

A People Betrayed by John Dougherty, Phoenix New Times May 1 1997

The Black Mesa Syndrome by Judith Nies

Geopolitics of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute by John Redhouse

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