Open letter to Laura Yoshii, acting regional administrator for U.S. EPA Region 9

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I read our lawyer’s summary of this decision with great interest. The appeal was a review of the EPA “source-specific federal implementation plan” for the Four Corners Power Plant that is located on the Navajo Reservation in northwest New Mexico, near my home site lease area. The decision basically held that since the Navajo Nation did not submit a tribal implementation plan under the “tribal authority rule,” the EPA was free to adopt a regulatory plan to fill that gap. (Decision at 5 – 6). We have no problem with that – with certain reservations.

We do have a problem with the federal plan for the Four Corners plant that was published in 2006 and later adopted. That is, your office subsequently found that Navajos who live in the Shiprock, Navajo Nation area are adversely affected by emissions from existing power plants at rates far higher than average, and that they are compelled to seek medical treatment at high rates because of respiratory ailments triggered by power plant plume. We do not see that such was addressed in the mentioned plan. Also, we cannot identify any pollution monitoring devices in the Shiprock area, downwind of the Four Corners plant. That would obviously throw off any findings that the plants are not causing respiratory health problems.

The URS Corporation did not review medical records on Navajos in the Shiprock area that are readily available when it did the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Desert Rock power plant. We do, by the way, agree with the Region 9 decision to request that the EPA Appeals Board permit withdrawal of the Desert Rock air permit to address issues that were not initially resolved as they should have been.

My question to you arises from language at page 19 of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, namely the EPA’s “multi-pronged approach” to implementing the Clean Air Act on Native American reservations where “In some cases the EPA takes a ‘grass-roots’ approach and works with tribes to assess air quality problems and to develop ‘either tribal or federal strategies for addressing the problems.’”

We point to the EPA policies on environmental justice and bring to your attention that they also apply to the “grass-roots” approach when working with the Navajo Nation. We want to be at the table, and we want you to pull out a chair for us.

We note that there will be changes in regulatory approaches in Indian country now that greenhouse gasses are deemed to be harmful to health and the public interest, and we note with great interest the re-examination of the proposed Desert Rock permit for air quality. There will need to be a re-examination of the Four Corners source-specific federal implementation plan, depending upon what is done about carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

We demand notice of any approach to the Navajo Nation on those matters and a place at the table when they are discussed. We are a Navajo grassroots organization that represents the interests of ordinary Navajos in the Four Corners area; particularly to the ability to breathe without getting ill.

A prompt response or invitation to talk would be greatly appreciated.

Elouise Brown

President Dooda Desert Rock Committee

Newcomb, Navajo Nation