PRESS CONFERENCE ON NAVAJO NATION PURCHASE OF BHP BILLITON COAL MINE STARTS AT 11:12 AM AT THE UPPER FRUITLAND CHAPTER
NAVAJO COUNCIL DELEGATE LORENZO BATES
We’re here to find out if the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch are still together on the purchase of the BHP coal mine, which would provide revenue stream to the tribal treasury and jobs for the Navajo Nation.
Both the President Ben Shelly realize the importance of this initiative. However there is confusion over whether or not we are all on the same page.
The president and speaker are here is to clarify that we are united as a nation, as represented by the leaders of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. These leaders recognize the fact that how we proceed will involve the Navajo Nation Council.
And by virtue of the Navajo Nation Council passing legislation to create Navajo Transitional Energy Company and the president signing off on that legislation to create NTEC that should show that we are united. Because if that legislation had passed and the president didn’t sign, we would not be here today and BHP wud be packing up, and Arizona Public Service and the other owners of Four Corners Power Plant wud be looking at taking down those facilities. But the NTEC legislation showed wat the Navajo Nation wants and pursues.
Granted there have been challenges and the president and speaker will meet those challenges headon. President Shelly is here. Speaker Naize is here. They’ll both be allowed a few words on the direction that we are moving on this (BHP purchase). There are timelines to be met and president and speaker will outline the timelines.
A lot of groundwork was put in place to move forward.
Be aware that when the Arizona Corporation Commission decided to make a decision on deregulation that put everything on hold because we didn’t know the outcome.
If the ACC had decided to deregulate then that wud have put an entire new spin on the coal mine purchase that wud have impacted not just the Navajo Nation but mine workers and BHP and Four Corner.
But with the ACC’s decision against deregulation, that allowed us to go forward.
This press conference is to show we are united in moving this initiative forward.
PRESIDENT BEN SHELLY
I usually don’t go back on my word. But as president, I must oversee the needs of all the people.
I want to be blunt. There wouldn’t have been any money for Navajo Transitional Energy Company if I hadn’t line-item vetoed $8.7 million from the 2014 budget that the Council approved. If there was no line-item veto of $8.7 million, there balance in the tribal Reserves Fund wouldn’t be $107 million. I had to line-item veto a lot. It hurt me. But I brought back the $8.7 million, otherwise there would have been less than $4 m in Reserves.
I want you to know that is real. And it bothers me when the Council does that to the Reserves.
Now we’re talking about BHP and we thought we knew the process. When BHP was first brought to me, I was told that the $85 million price tag would be paid off with state and federal taxes. I thought about it and I gave in.
But I’m lately I’ve been getting more and more concerned about how the Navajo Nation will subsidize the coal mine after we buy it and begin operating it. I was told that the coal royalties would subsidize the mine operations.
I’m also concerned about the lease with Four Corner Power Plant, which ends in 2016. And San Juan Generating Station’s lease ends in a couple of years. But that plan is not on our land, it’s in New Mexico. And San Juan Plant is looking to the Ute Tribe to buy coal. And I argued for San Juan Plant to utilize BHP coal mine.
That was something that bothered me and I went over there and I said to stay with BHP because the Navajo Nation is taking over mine.
Their response was that there was too much politics in the mine purchase, which made it unstable. So those things are what I hear.
Now today, the other issue is the future of coal. Four Corners Power Plant has a 25 year renewal lease but BHP lease ends in 2016. And assuming that the tribe takes over the mine, but coal has no future because of new proposed environmental rules then what does the tribe do.
So my concern has started getting real. If the tribe buys the mine, what is the future of coal. I’m looking at that and I found it – carbon capture, which takes CO2 out of coal. There is no danger/no hazardous emissions, just water vapors and the USEPA uses it.
I want Southern California tech people to do the carbon sequestration for us. (http://www.nnwo.org/content/president-shelly-completes-tour-carbon-capture-sequestration-alabama-power-plant)
The other solution is to transport the coal from the mine to China. It’s possible because the Navajo Nation has partnered with Taiwan on building solar panels and with Israel we’ve built an education bridge. So we can go to China to export coal.
What I’m telling you is that even if the tribe takes over the BHP coal mine, coal sales might be short lived so we must look ahead. What is the future; it’s to keep everybody working.
I thought about it and the comment is real about what I said in the paper. (President Shelly was quoted in two regional newspapers last week that he would sign the BHP purchase if it came to his desk.)
I called a meeting yesterday (at the Courtyard Marriott in Farmington, NM) to talk about my position to the Navajo Nation Council. And Speaker Naize is here to hear what’s going to happen. The proposed legislation for the $4.1 million for NTEC is put in the hopper. Speaker Naize is pushing it. I understand that the Navajo Nation Council will address the $4.1 m and that the $4.1 million will come from the Reserves.
It’s a good thing that Speaker bought me a steak dinner because that shows that he’s got money he can dip into.
In the political world, we all spend a lot of time politicking. And politicians exchange, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back. I’ve been scratching the speaker’s back so much that it’s probably red. But he’s done nothing for me.
My approval of the $4.1 million for NTEC depends on the Energy Policy. It’s going to the Council and it’s before the Resources & Development Committee. I understand that the RDC moved it to next week. (The RDC is scheduled to meet Oct. 8.)
The Energy Policy is very important; I need it to pass in order for me to go forward with the mine purchase. That is number 1. I want the Council to approve the Energy Policy. That is what I want.
Another concern that I want the Council to seriously consider is making the former (coal-fired) Desert Rock (generating station) the site of CO2 capture. Desert Rock was a mandate by the nation years ago. I’ve been talking with boiler makers (about the carbon sequestration plant) and they said they can do it. I’m looking at them. I’ve been talking with other unions beside you, President Shelly said to the BHP coal miners.
You are all working but what if short term. So I want something that is always there, where your kids could work.
But if the E policy is not passed (by the Council), I’m not going to sign (the $4.1 million for NTEC).
We need to start talking about using the Desert Rock location for the carbon sequestration plant and I’m willing to do eminent domain. It’s on my shoulder to do (eminent domain) and I don’t need to go back to the Navajo Nation Council for their approval.
I’m not sure about continuing to use the Desert Rock name. The Desert Rock legislation might need to return to the Council for the name change and for the project not to burn coal.
I agree that we shouldn’t be playing poltitics.
Oct. 31 is deadline for the purchase of the BHP coal mine.
I need the Energy Policy now.
And if the Council and RDC approve the $4.1 m first, I’ll sign it after when I see the Energy Policy. If the Energy Policy is not on my desk then I’m not going to sign the $4.1 million.
We’ve got to pass the Energy Policy otherwise our mining and other energy development is not going to work. We have an Energy Policy that needs to be updated. That is my message to the Council.
And what is so hard about the Energy Policy? It’s really frustrating, when law is in place and it’s not set in stone because then it can’t be amended. Why is the Energy Policy being prolonged? Does the Council want a perfect document? It can’t be perfect. The Energy Policy will open a lot of opportunities.
It’ll allow us to expand our energy development beyond mining. The Energy Policy will also remove red tape which is federal environmental laws. This Energy Policy will undo the federal red tape.
And then there will be other jobs. That’s what I see in my vision and what I will follow.
So again, I ask the Speaker that he needs to lobby the Council to pass the Energy Policy. I will work with the Speaker. And he understands what I’m talking about.
The negotiating team (for the BHP coal mine) is in place to negotiate a release and waiver. But what happens when BHP moves out and they are no longer liable for the mine operation. Then we are liable. “It’s all the Navajo Nation’s problem.”
And so the Negotiation Team of lawyers brings issue and finds out what happens. That will take time. But what want right now is the Energy Policy.
If that don’t happen, it’s not going to happen.
The Navajo Nation needs to grow, and stop getting handouts from the federal government.
Standing Rock, NM, has a lot of coal that can be developed. And I want to retrieve the drag line that Peabody sold real cheap. I didn’t know about that. The Navajo Nation has a lot of resources to make money.
GALLUP INDEPENDENT REPORTER KATHY HELMS ASKS PRESIDENT SHELLY WHY HE CHANGED HIS MIND ABOUT BHP?
Just because I’m the president, I uphold the law. This is way that as president that I do my job.
What changed my mind? Anybodycan change their mind.
DINE’ RESOURCES & INFORMATION CENTER: WILL YOU SUPPORT A HEALTH STUDY OF THE IMPACTS OF COAL MINING ON THE COAL WORKERS. PEABODY COAL MINERS PROTESTED PEABODY’S REFUSAL TO PROVIDE HEALTH COVERAGE RELATED TO BLACK LUNG DISEASE AFTER THE COAL MINERS RETIRED?
Like I said I support carbon capture and its US EPA approved and it’s doesn’t pollute.
I have not seen health data on coal contamination. We asked the Indian Health Service hospital and they haven’t done. There may be one or two cases, but there’s no large population that’s been impacted by working in coal mines. And so since there’s no study, I can’t argued on those health issues.
They (coal workers) take that risk. The mine also has safety protocols and all that is in place now. I’ve been the coal mine and there’s no coal dust. The cabs of the coal mine machinery are sealed and the workers wear mouth pieces.
Obamacare is coming in and the coal workers can look at that for health benefits. Unions also make sure that their members havae good health coverage.
WILL THE NAVAJO NATION HONOR THE UNION AGREEMENTS BETWEEN BHAP AND THE UNION?
I don’t know. But the unions have a way of putting pressure on for what they want and if you don’t do what they want then there’s problems with union and that how the game is played.
But when Navajo Nation takes over the mine, we’ll step in and fill the shoes.
Again, NTEC will the coal mine, not politicians.
WAS THERE A SHOVING MATCH BETWEEN YOU AND DELEGATE LORENZO BATES DURING THE CLOSED DOOR MEETING IN FARMINGTON YESTERDAY?
Is that going to be in front news. It’s nothing. We were just re-establishing our turf. We cleared the air and we didn’t do in front of people. That’s reasonable and sensable. So we all got back on the same page. We have each have our turf – the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch.
BHP COAL MINER IN AUDIENCE ASKED – WILL THERE BE WORK FOR UNIONS IN NEXT THREE YEARS?
Whenever take over mine, NTEC will come in and continue whatever BHP doing with you all.
The $4.1 million funding for NTEC and the fuel agreement, probably stalled cuz of what I’m doing here. Now trying to straighten out. Get on same page.