September 28, 2009

Hopi vs. environmentalists

Hopis say conservationists unwelcome on tribal land

By Dennis WagnerThe Hopi Nation's Tribal Council sent a message Monday to the Sierra Club and a handful of other environmental groups: Stay off the reservation.

Tina May, a council spokeswoman, said council members meeting in Kykotsmovi unanimously adopted a resolution declaring that the conservation groups are unwelcome on Hopi lands because they have damaged the tribe's economy by pushing for closure of a coal-fired power plant near Page.

The resolution says environmentalists have "spread misinformation" about Hopi water and energy resources, attempting to "instill unfounded fears into the hearts and minds of Hopi public."

The public castigation of conservation groups represents an unusual breach between a Native American tribe and environmental groups, which often work hand-in-hand on political causes, according to Ben Nuvamsa, a former tribal chairman.
What exactly is the problem?This spring, a coalition involving the Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and several Native American groups called on the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Navajo Generating Station's role in smoggy skies over the Grand Canyon. They claimed the power plant is a source of "excessive pollution" and should be forced to reduce emissions.

The power plant and Hopi coal mines that fuel it support hundreds of families, providing more than 70 percent of the Indian nation's governmental revenues, said Scott Canty, tribal counsel.

In 2005, environmentalists succeeded in closing the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev. The Hopis claim that shutdown cost the tribe more than $6.5 million per year, and closure of Navajo Generating Station would wipe out another $11 million.
Comment:  As Loretta Windas wrote on Facebook:Interesting topic and article...competing interests within groups that would normally work together. One cannot simply take away a source of revenue AND energy without a work-around plan or a full-on replacement of same.Good point. But there's another good point worth considering. The Hopi and Navajo may have the sovereign right to pollute their own air, but they don't have the right to pollute the surrounding air. Their rights end where someone else's rights begin.

Obviously we need another solution besides closing the plant or letting it continue unabated. Require the installation of scrubber technology or something like that. Or put a carbon tax on the plant to reflect the true cost of its emissions. The Indians can either pay the tax or implement whatever alternative they want.

For more on the subject, see Ecological Indian Talk.

Below:  "Hopis are angry with environmental groups for pushing for closure of the Navajo Generating Station (shown in 2003), a coal-fired power plant near Page." (John Stanley/The Arizona Republic)

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