Navajo community groups launch “Navajo Equitable Economy” initiative, call for healing as final Navajo Generating Station coal units retire
Diné C.A.R.E. and Black Mesa Water Coalition
As Salt River Project prepares to burn through the last remaining piles of coal at Navajo Generating Station this weekend, Navajo grassroots groups are issuing a call for the Navajo Nation to return to honoring Diné Fundamental Law and values in energy policy decisions. The principles illuminated in #NavajoEquitableEconomy will also ensure that the water used for 50 years to mine and burn coal is returned to the Nation and will prioritize the development of projects that are sustainable, prioritize water, and have benefits for Navajo communities.
After decades of exploitation of Navajo resources, the groups also are renewing their appeal for corporate accountability, calling for all current and former owners of Navajo Generating Station and Peabody Energy to assist the Nation in its transition to a post-coal economy.
The foundations of this transition are incorporated in the new initiative and launch of the accompanying website: www.NavajoEquitableEconomy.org
As part of the initiative, the groups – Diné CARE, Tó Nizhóní Ání, and Black Mesa Water Coalition – will track progress on transition and clean-up efforts, and urge Navajo Nation leaders to take swift action on the issues outlined on the site, as a means of fulfilling the promise of a #NavajoEquitableEconomy.
“Our nation faces a defining moment, after decades of relying on a coal industry that devastated our natural resources. We are resilient people, and we must now come together to heal our families and our land and work towards a Just Transition that is in line with Diné Fundamental Law,” said Percy Deal, who lives south of the Peabody coal mine in Black Mesa. “Diné Fundamental Law calls on us to be stewards of our plant and animal relatives, with a sacred obligation and duty to respect, preserve, and protect all that was provided.” Mr. Deal’s family, like many others in the region, have lived without running water all their lives.
“The closing of Navajo Generating Station represents an opportunity to right the longstanding wrongs on water that our people have suffered as a result of coal operations,” said Carol Davis, Diné C.A.R.E. “Decades of coal strip-mining on Black Mesa depleted the N-Aquifer and many families have remained without running water. We must see that the water is returned to our people and that a full reclamation of the N-Aquifer is carried out.”
“As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, we stand to benefit from the development of clean energy projects and from an economic transition that prioritizes local community voices,” said Nicole Horseherder of Tó Nizhóní Ání. "But we need support from those that profited for decades from the use of Navajo natural resources. That means that federal and state government agencies, Navajo Generating Station owners, and Peabody Energy all have a responsibility to support the Navajo Nation in the restructuring of its economy.”
“Power lines were built over communities on Navajo land, taking electricity and water to cities across the Southwest, while thousands in the Navajo Nation remained with no electricity access or water,” said Marie Gladue, of Black Mesa Water Coalition (BMWC). “We need to heal from the wrongs of the past — by returning to Diné traditional law, and prioritizing energy and water management policies that are in line with our values and virtues as stewards of the natural world.”