Proposed Navajo Nation Energy Policy headed to Council
September 19, 2013 Professional Journal

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s Energy Advisory Committee met with Council’s Resources & Development Committee on the proposed Energy Policy at the Navajo Department of Transportation on Feb. 20, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s Energy Advisory Committee met with Council’s Resources & Development Committee on the proposed Energy Policy at the Navajo Department of Transportation on Feb. 20, 2013. Photo by Marley Shebala

Greetings Relatives/Frens,

I received a text from Farmington Daily Times news reporter Noel Smith that as she was looking for proposed Navajo Nation Council legislation on Council Delegate Katherine Benally’s $220 million bond, she came across another proposed Council legislation that we have both been tracking – the Navajo Nation Energy Policy.

For those of you that are interested in Benally’s proposed $220 bond, that legislation number is Legislation 0213-13. Benally is also the Council’s Resources & Development Committee chairperson.

Back to proposed Navajo Nation Energy Policy of 2013 legislation, which is numbered 0276-13. According to the proposed legislation, it goes before the Resources & Development Committee, then the Naa’biki’yati’ Committee and finally the Council, which has final approval or disapproval.

Legislation 0276-13 was posted on the Council’s website for the five-day public comment period at 3:45 pm on Sept. 11, which means that it was ready to go before the RDC on Sept. 18. I’ve posted a link to the proposed Energy Policy legislation, which by the way doesn’t have Exhibit A: The Energy Policy. And so once again the Navajo Nation government adds to the People’s distrust of their government, plus it’s pretty goofy and unfair for the Council to expect the People to properly comment on a policy that is incomplete.

Meanwhile the RDC is having a special meeting tomorrow, Sept. 19, at 9 am at the Council chamber in Window Rock, where the RDC could add the proposed Energy Policy to its agenda since RDC Vice Chairperson Roscoe Smith and RDC member Charles Damon II are the sponsors of the proposed E-Policy legislation.

The sole agenda item on Sept. 19 for the RDC is the proposed Grazing Act, which Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture Director Leo Watchman is scheduled to present.

The proposed Grazing Act has been tabled numerous times by prior Councils because it’s basically politically death. More on that in a separate blog. And I’ll be blogging from the RDC special meeting tomorrow, Sept. 19.

Back to the proposed E-Policy.

The proposed 2013 E-Policy, which would replace the 1980 E-Policy, was introduced to the people by President Ben Shelly in June 2011 through six public meetings – not public hearings – hosted by Shelly’s Energy Office, which is administered by Michelle Henry, who was formerly with the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources.

According to the June 23, 2011, Energy Office press release, the public forums would provide an opportunity for interested citizens to learn more about the Navajo Nation 2011 Energy Policy, which the Navajo Energy Office developed as a long-term Strategic Energy Plan designed to stimulate increased revenues from energy projects, spur energy infrastructure development, and diversify the Navajo energy economy.

The energy office explained that “The Plan” provided opportunities for competitive business and made it attractive for private investors to invest in energy projects on the reservation.

The Plan also addressed how the Tribe would strategically engage key governmental and community representatives on Navajo energy projects and review the potential of all available energy resources.

“The Energy Policy serves to guide our leaders as they consider specific legislation, rules and regulations, energy strategies, board resolutions, management policies, programs and decisions related to energy in and around the Nation,” Henry stated.

The creators of the E-Policy were Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie, Division of Natural Resources Director Fred White, Navajo Environmental Protection Agency Director Stephen Etsitty, Tax Office Director Martin Ashley, Mineral Department Director Akhtar Zaman, Division of Economic Development Director Albert Damon, Navajo-Hopi Land Development Office Director Raymond Maxx, Land Administration Department Director Mike Halona and administrator Irma Roanhorse, Shelly’s Energy Policy Adviser Sam Woods, and consultants Steven Gundersen of Tallsalt Advisors, Scottsdale, Ariz., and Steve Grey of Lawrence Livermore Lab.

I know that Attorney Gen. Tsosie, who is a Shelly political appointee, headed Shelly’s negotiating team for the defunct Navajo-Hopi Colorado River Water Rights Settlement and for the Navajo Generating Station’s lease renewal. White, Etsitty, Ashley, Zaman, and Woods were also on the NGS negotiating team. White and Etsitty also serve at the pleasure of Shelly.

Tsosie and Etsitty were on the Navajo government’s team that Salt River Project invited to create an alternative environmental protection plan to reduce NGS pollution.

Tsosie now heads Shelly’s Energy Advisory team which has been reviewing a natural gas electric generating facility that NTUA/Navajo Tribal Utility Authority presented to them on behalf of Terra-Gen Power LLC, which is asking to locate it at the defunct Desert Rock coal-fired power plant site near Tiis Tsoh Sikaad. Etsitty, Zaman, White, and Maxx are also on the team.

And consultants Gunderson and Grey are now board members of the Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC., which the Council create to negotiate and purchase the BHP Billiton coal mine. Gundersen is the board president and Grey is the board treasurer.

I attended the public meeting at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque, which was focused on hearing from the students on Shelly’s E-policy.

The policy supports renewable energy development while focusing on a coal-driven future. The June 2011, section 701, policy stated:
“A Future with Coal and Coal-Fired Power Plants. Coal and coal-fired plants are a significant component of the Navajo economy and the Nation’s revenues. The Nation will plan for a future that includes coal as a key component of the Nation’s energy mix. As a coal producer that derives a significant amount of royalties, rent, fees, jobs and tax revenue from coal mining and production of electricity from coal, the Nation will seek to shape federal fossil fuel legislation and adapt to the new federal regulatory environment.”

Mario Atencio, who identified himself as a student and a member of Diné CARE (Citizens Against Ruining the Environment), questioned how Attorney General Harrison Tsosie could claim that Diné Fundamental Law was part of Shelly’s proposed energy policy.

“We’re going to build power plants and be holy?” Atencio asked.

Atencio’s was referring to Shelly’s introductory remarks that included the restoration of the controversial 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant Desert Rock.

Shelly, in a separate interview, said that the $32.6 billion Desert Rock project, which was to provide electricity for 1.5 million customers in southern Arizona, Las Vegas and California, was never removed as a tribal energy project.

Desert Rock was former President Joe Shirley Jr.’s crowning energy project and it also had federal support, including an air permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the George W. Bush administration. Shelly was Shirley’s vice president.

But the state of New Mexico legally questioned the US EPA’s decision to issue an air permit for Desert Rock.

In the end, the air permit was rescinded and with it went $3.2 million in tax-free industrial revenue bonds for Desert Rock.

Shelly said that he plans to transform Desert Rock into a “coal liquefaction” plant that changes coal into diesel fuel, which is “clean coal” technology.

But Atencio said coal was the reason for global warming and climate change.

According to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, “coal use, primarily for the generation of electricity, now accounts for roughly 20 percent of global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.”

Shelly said vehicle emissions from cars and trucks and people burning trash also contribute to global climate change.

In a written statement, National Indian Youth Council President Cecelia Belone noted that Shelly’s draft energy policy failed to mention Navajo common law, the Fundamental Laws of the Diné or Diné Natural Law, which were adopted by the Council in 2002, as well as relevant provisions of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Belone strongly recommended additional public meetings to allow more public participation.

Al Henderson, a former Division of Economic Development director with a master’s degree in economics who is teaching at UNM, criticized the limited time allowed for individuals to comment, which was three minutes.

Henderson, who submitted a 15-page written statement from himself and two associates, recommended changing the name of the energy policy to “Mother Earth, Father Sky Policy” or “Nohoosdzaan doo Yadiihil Bi Bee Haz’aanii Policy.”

He also recommended that section 403, Lease Rent, Royalty rates and Bonuses, be changed.

In 1980, the tribe incorporated the cost benefit/opportunity concept into its 1980 energy policy and other tribes followed their lead, he recalled.
The Native Health Initiative of Albuquerque made five key recommendations.

Number one was that a formal health impact assessment be a “standard” for all proposed energy projects.

That was followed with the recommendation to make “renewable energy sources” on the reservation a “precedence in the plans for development of new revenue sources, creation of jobs, and the overall goal to switch both fuel production and consumption to renewable sources.”

Number three was that “uranium mining should have no place in the energy plans of the Navajo Nation. It is unacceptable from a health, environmental and spiritual vantage point to keep the door open on uranium mining,” which is in section 9.

Shelly said that his draft energy policy does not include the ban on uranium exploration, mining and processing because he wants to keep an “open door” on uranium mining.

The initiative’s other two recommendations concerned pollution and spirituality.

“We request that the final draft of the energy policy be consistent with health equity, allowing no greater pollution in the Navajo Nation that would be accepted in the wealthiest sections of Farmington, in the heart of Sedona, or in downtown Scottsdale,” the initiative stated.

“We ask that attention and reverence be given to the reality that for the Diné people, clean air, water and land are not commodities to be bargained with, but sacred elements of life to be protected at all costs.”

In July 2011, I talked to Arizona Public Service Tribal Liasion Arbin Trujillo, who was a political appointee of President Sirley. before APS hired him in June 2011. He headed the Division of Natural Resources and was the key person in crafting the Shirley administration’s proposed energy policy.

Trujillo said that he presented the Shirley administration’s energy policy to the World Bank in 2003, where it was praised. But he said it never made it to the Council. “We couldn’t get their attention,” Trujillo said.

He added that Shirley’s 2003 policy is part of Shelly’s energy policy.

Since 2001, the Navajo Nation/Tribe has attempted to update the 1980 Energy Policy. In 2005, the Council approved the Dine’ Natural Resources Protection Act, which bans uranium mining and processing.

Proposed 2013 Energy Policy legislation minus the actual proposed E-Policy:

Prez Shelly’s proposed E-Policy that he presented in June 2011

This is the comments from Dine’ Policy Institute on the June 2011 E-Policy

Dine’ Natural Resources Protection Act

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Wind Energy Study, November 2012

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