It took most of the day but I finally finished Part 4, which is Navajo Environmental Protection Agency director Stephen Etsitty speaking at the Navajo Generating Station Forum at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff on Nov. 20, 2013.
The transcript of Etsitty’s presentation, plus questions from audience members, especially Hopi and Navajo community people, took most of the time. The questions from Hopi members concerned a claim by Salt River Project director for environmental management and policy Kelly Barr that the Hopi Tribe was not invited to be part of SRP’s Technical Working Group because Navajo could represent Hopi. Navajo members were coneerned about Etsitty’s ability to protect the enviornment.
At the end of this post is the web address for the YouTuba video NGS Forum Part 4.
Here is the transcript of NEPA Etsitty’s presentation:
MODERATOR WILLIAM M. AUBERLE introduces NAVAJO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY DIRECTOR STEPHEN ETSITTY. “What better person to have to represent the Navajo Nation then the head of their of their environmental protection agency. Steve previously worked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco and regional office in D.C. And has served at least two presidents of the Navajo Nation, And Stephen was intimate participation in the development of the agreement that Kelly introduced this evening. So with that Stephen Etsitty, who introduces himself as To aheedliini (Where the Water Flows Together People) and born for Ashiihi (Salt People).
And for those people from the Navajo Nation, you’ll know if you’re related to me. And for those who aren’t you’ll be able to understand a little more about who I am from my clan affiliations.
I am part of the long tradition stemming from the words of our former leaders from the 19th century who envisioned the continued livelihood of Dine’ on this earth and told the people and young people at the time when we were held in bondage when we were trying to figure out our relationship with this new entity called the United States government, they said to go out and get an education. Go out and make something of yourself so you can come back and help your people. That’s almost cliché today but it’s still meaningful to millions.
So as Bill mentioned, my professional experience extends to being a federal bureaucrat within the USEPA and now I can claim two years as a tribal bureaucrat within the Navajo Nation government.
And for a lot of people, government is not a good thing. But I’m a lifelong public servant coming out of the tradition of wanting to do something helpful not only for my people but our neighbors all around us – our Hopi neighbors, our Southern San Juan Paiute neighbors, our friends out in Supai, our friends and neighbors the Southern Ute in Southern in Southern Colorado. We have a long relationship with all our kin in this region that is known as the Four Corners region.
As you all know, if you spend time in this museum and other museums around the southwest, these political boundaries are fairly new.
Etsitty says that questions have been raised about whether he or anyone in the position of NEPA director has the legal authority to represent the Navajo Nation. He then begins citing Navajo laws that give him that authority.
And then he starts talking about the Navajo version of the federal Clean Air Act, which was amended in 2004. The council places primarily authority of this law with NEPA, along with the Air Quality Program. Both laws state specifically what the NEPA director is to do. When it comes to dealing with something like the BART issue, that’s what this is really all about. Is that we have a responsibility to respond to the opportunity for comments. We have the responsibility of engaging in government-to-government consultation now with the federal government visa the EPA on each rule that we feel we want to have our voice heard.
So a lot of my time recently has been dealing with BART issues, with utility map issues, with mercury rule issue that was on the table in front of us four years ago. We will be rolling up our sleeves and getting into the Green House gas and carbon dioxide proposals that are being developed by US EPA.
So if anybody wonders where exactly the authority to do what we do, you can go our website and check out our version of the Clean Air Act. And more recently and more to the point of our gathering here tonight and looking more towards the future, the Navajo Nation government recently enacted a revised Energy Policy.
These are a couple of things I summarize out of the policy.
As Etsitty starts his summary, an unidentified Hopi man raises his hand and comments to Etsitty: I think that SRP really needs to look closely at that because nowhere in there does it say that the Navajo Nation can represent the Hopi Tribe.
Etsitty replies, “I do know that in that matter it’s not necessarily speaking for but we do have many of the same interests at the governmental level.”
The unidentified Hopi man continues to question Etsitty about SRP Barr’s claim that the Navajo government could represent the Hopi government.
We never said and that was a misstatement. It’s not the case but we have similar interests at the governmental level. And I do know that my president authorized me to participate in these issues. I’ve got specific statutory authority and I’m responsible for carrying them out. And I do know, I think that still today that a resolution by the Hopi Tribal Council states that the Hopi Tribe is in a neutral position on NGS. So that was one of the things that was considered.
Etsitty’s last comment brought an uproar from the audience.
But I’m talking at the governmental level. I know there are differences from the community level just as there are differences of opinion at the Navajo side between the community level and the government level.
UNIDENTIFIED HOPI MAN
Stephen! Number one I’m glad that this forum is taking place because throughout the discussion I think the general public has questions and concerns that are unresolved. On behalf of the Hopi Tribe, we so small politically we have no leverage. Whereas our neighbors, the Navajo, have quite a bit of that. And we’re all residents of the Colorado Plateau and we’re all affected. And there are a lot of issues that cause frustration for the Hopi people simply because for BART and SRP we are stakeholders and all the other industries are being represented. But yet here we are not being represented. And the other thing is I speak from experience as 30 years as regional realty officer for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Navajo Region.
You have laws giving you authority but the Hopi Tribe should also be represented. You have experience in DC, like I do, and I say that because I helped develop Desert Rock and revise federal codes, such as the Clean Air Act.
I would just like to close by saying that this is a real interesting point moving into the future. My programs, especially the ones that come with delegation of authority or primacy, EPA is very concerned about our ability to provide fair and meaningful input into our decisions. So we’re bound by regulations, administrative procedures, for notifying the public, for doing our own public comment period, for listening to concerns of folks out there when we make an action on a permit. If they want a public hearing, there are prescriptions as to how to follow the process to request that. And we’re obliged to go through the process. So far as I mentioned I’ve got 14 facilities. We permitted all of them. They’re five year Title 5 Clean Air Act permits. In our regulations, there’s a small section that says that the public also has a responsibility to comment. We haven’t received a lot of comment from our public. We include the Hopi reservation. We put our announcements on Navajo radio. We put it in area wide publications. I think that every now and then we do go to KUYI and share our announcements there too because we know that there is interest. We have received some comments from Hopi members on the actions that we take in the Navajo EPA. So we’re bound to do that. It’s not that just a Navajo program for Navajo citizens. There is an avenue available.
I would just like to close by saying that as we move into the future, understanding these programmatic activities that the government, both Navajo Nation and Hopi, and other Indian tribes in Arizona and the federal government is going to remain complex. And the only thing we can do is just to dive in there. And ask for more help from my programs. We have the responsibility to serve the public with information. We have a website. And I know that not everybody likes websites but we do a lot of outreach. We spend a lot of our money and time going to schools to the young population. Going to chapter meetings and other gatherings in the region. We participated in ratt (sp), Grand Canyon…
LADY INTERRUPTS ETSITTY
You’re tooting your own horn. This presentation is so skewed. The data that you have used. You have co-opted data to promote a perspective that promotes your agenda. Because this is an energy forum, I want to ask you now while you’re up here what your position is on fracking, what your position is on uranium because you as a public office with authority have not been transparent. You say you’re out in schools and chapters, but in the backroom what are you doing with these folks and not consulting with your Hopi brothers and sisters or even your Dine’ brothers and sisters.
We have annual conferences for our programs to specifically to talk about the issues that the people want us to talk about. We have programmatic meetings. We have a drinking water conference.
And who pays for those conferences? URI, HRI?
Laughs and says EPA funds the conference.
As far as the issues for the future, this document, the Energy Policy, which was recently enacted, I think that one of the interesting aspects is that while fossil fuels will remain abundant for development, it does set us for a path for more serious development of renewable energy resources on the Navajo Nation.
And renewable energy wasn’t even on top of the priorities of the Energy Policy. It was at the very bottom.
The Energy Policy is not organized in a prioritized manner. It’s a list and everything in there is a priority. As often time you hear many people talk that everything is a priority. So if it is in the policy, it is a priority. But thank you very much.
Like I said, it’s a very complex issue and…
DINE’ RESOURCES & INFORMATION CENTER
Excuse me! I had my hand raised and I was being very polite. And one thing, you talk about the Energy Policy and transparency, Mr. Etsitty. That didn’t go out to the people. And you didn’t let the people know that you were part of SRP’s hand-picked technical working group either until afterwards. And that you were negotiating with Navajo Generating Station lease renewal. Nobody knew you were doing that since 2010 until afterwards.
These assignments were made by presidential memo and executive order. When these teams were formed, they were announced publicly.
DINE’ RESOURCES & INFORMATION CENTER
No they weren’t. And you’re a political appointee of Mr. Shelly and he’s Mr. Coal.
Hang on, hang on, we can talk about tribal politics for the rest of evening but we’re not going to do that until after we’ve heard from each of the panelists…Let’s hear from two more speakers.
Here is the YouTube web address for NGS Forum Part 4:
NAVAJO EPA DIRECTOR ETSITTY: MY PRESIDENT AUTHORIZED ME