Rep. Raul Grijalva Stands Up for Hopi People, Resources, Sovereignty
By Vernon Masayesva
KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. (Nov. 9) – Rep. Raul Grijalva, R-Ariz., has sent an urgent letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne requesting that he direct the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement to stop work on the Black Mesa Project draft environmental impact statement.
Black Mesa Trust Executive Director Vernon Masayesva lauded the representative's effort to ensure that the Interior Department meets its trust responsibility to Native peoples. "Rep. Grijalva has seen into the heart of this issue and taken a stand to defend our interests and rights, especially our right to protect the N-aquifer underlying Black Mesa from further corporate abuse."
In his letter, Grijalva told Kempthorne that allowing continued access to the aquifer for coal mining "would result in irreparable damage to the sole source of drinking water for many Hopis and Navajos. Moreover, past water withdrawals from the Navajo Aquifer have already caused sacred Hopi springs to dry up, irreparably harming the tribal communities."
He also pointed out that "there is no actual proposed project involving Black Mesa Mine to be analyzed" since the only customer for the coal (Mohave Generating Station in Laughline, Nev.) shut down in 2005. Grijalva wrote, "the pending EIS [is] not only premature, but in direct conflict with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act."
The Black Mesa Project DEIS proposes to combine the Kayenta Mine and the Black Mesa Mine (both on Black Mesa in northern Arizona, deep in the Navajo and Hopi reservations) and to resume coal mining at the Black Mesa Mine, which has been shut down since Mohave Generating Station. The Office of Surface Mine suspended work on the DEIS in May 2007 when Southern California Edison stopped funding because it had not found buyers for the Mohave Generating Station who would restart the power plant. In May 2008 OSM reopened the comment period on the DEIS until July 7. OSM states on its website that the agency plans to issue the final environmental impact statement this month.
In the letter Grijalva reminded Kempthorne that the Hopi government is in disarray at the moment and, therefore, "no one has the authority to consult with OSM and make decisions on behalf of the Hopi Tribal Council on matters related to the mining and water withdrawals on Black Mesa."
In conclusion, Grijalva said, "I believe a delay in processing the EIS is warranted and ask that the process be delayed until OSM can determine the actual purpose and need of this project" and until the Hopi tribal government "is again intact."
Masayesva and other Hopi tribal members expressed their gratitude to Grijalva for his support of the Hopi people, defense of their natural resources and respect for the tribe's sovereignty and right to self-determination.