I’m sharing a story from Farmington Daily Times news reporter Noel Smith about yesterday’s press conference involving Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, Speaker Johnny Naize and Council Delegate LoRenzo Bates, who is also the Budget & Finance Committee chairperson at the Upper Fruitland Chapter near Farmington, N.M.
I’m posting her story and the link to her story:
And please check out Noel’s story on the Farmington Daily Times’ Facebook, to read the comments. Some of the comments are hilarious. Here’s the Daily Times FB link:
Navajo leaders reiterate support for Navajo Mine purchase
UPPER FRUITLAND — The Navajo Nation’s top two leaders reiterated their support of the tribe buying Navajo Mine
during a press conference Friday.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naiz e told mine employees and top
administrators that the tribe still wants the operation, which BHP Billiton, currently owns
Delegate LoRenz o Bates organiz ed the media event after two regional newspapers quoted Shelly as stating that he
would not support the mine purchase if the purchase agreement came to his desk for his approval.
“There’s concern of whether or not the Navajo Nation, the president’s side and also the speaker’s side, are united in the
initiative of purchasing Navajo Mine,” Bates
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly (Daily Times file photo)
said. “By the president and the speaker being here this morning is
to clarify that we are united as a nation.”
Bates, who represents the Upper Fruitland Chapter, is also the
primary sponsor of legislation that requests $4.1 million from the
Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to fund the Navajo
Transitional Energy Company LLC, which is the tribal entity
overseeing the acquisition of Navajo Mine.
The bill is posted on the council’s website for public commenting.
As of Friday, the UUFB is at $7.7 million.
Shelly said he would support purchasing the mine if the council
meets two conditions. The first is that the council pass the Navajo
Nation Energy Policy of 2013, and the second is that the council
“seriously consider” reestablishing the Desert Rock energy project.
The tribe has not updated its energy policy since its creation in
Delegate Roscoe Smith, who is vice chairman of the Resources
and Development Committee, is sponsoring the bill containing the
energy policy, which is waiting for consideration by the RDC, the
Naabikiyati Committee and the council.
Shelly warned that the future of the mine depends on having the updated energy policy in place.
“Since Oct. 31 is the deadline for this purchase for BHP, I need that energy policy now,” Shelly said.
The president said he supported purchasing the mine when he was first approached with the idea, but, after looking at
the future of coal, his opinion started to change.
With federal air standards becoming stricter and states turning to alternative energy sources, Shelly said he understands
that burning coal is no longer normal practice. He said he has been examining alternatives for the mine’s future,
including power sources that use carbon capture technology, exporting coal to China and gasification.
“We need to support jobs that will last, not short term, and the nation needs to grow, too. We need to get out of this
handout to the government,” Shelly said.
Meanwhile, Naiz e gave no ultimatums in issuing his support for acquiring the mine.
He explained that the due diligence team has closely examined the purchase, and the mine is necessary to sustain
tribal revenues and continued employment of Navajos.
“We appreciate the mine. We appreciate the plant, and the Navajo Nation will not survive without these industries,” he
said. “The Navajo Nation will do whatever it can to complete this agreement with BHP and also keep the Four Corners
Power Plant running.”
Unlike Shelly, Naiz e did not talk about any alternatives for keeping the mine in operation. Rather, he sympathiz ed with
the Four Corners Power Plant for having to retrofit its units with pollution controls called selective catalytic reduction.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “All I know is that it’s expensive, and I feel for Four Corners, and I hope they’ll put those
in just to comply with the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).”
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505- 564- 4636 and nsmith@dailytimes.
com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.