Navajo Louise Benally: Greed, climate change and the dirty coal industry
Article and photo by Brenda Norrell
BIG MOUNTAIN, Ariz. -- The lease extension continuing the dirty coal industry on Navajoland comes as no surprise to Dine' Louise Benally, whose family has been resisting forced relocation and the genocide of Peabody Coal on Black Mesa since Peabody began destroying the earth and the health of the people here.
Dine' here fought hard to halt the 25-year-lease extension for the Navajo Generating Station near Page. The dirty coal fired power plant provides electricity in Arizona, primarily to non-Navajos, and pollutes Navajoland and the Grand Canyon region. The lease was approved by the Navajo Nation Council and signed by President Ben Shelly this week.
Benally said, "The recent action by the Navajo Nation was not a surprise to anyone. They have started to sign away our natural resources -- coal, water, air and human rights -- for a few people in central Arizona to have water and power and not pay a fair rate for it. The state of Arizona and its energy agencies are forcefully taking these resources from our homelands without any justice."
"Our so-called Tribal Leaders have 'No conscious' and are blinded by greed. They are sacrificing the future of our survival. They have no idea that climate change is caused by over-consumption of fossil fuel."
Peabody Coal is at the root of the crisis and mines the coal on Black Mesa which fuels the Navajo Generating Station. Peabody orchestrated the so-called Navajo Hopi land dispute in order to remove more than 14,000 Navajos from their homes so that Peabody could mine Black Mesa's coal.
Benally said today, "Right now there is land (cracking) opening right near the mine and they don't even know it. The air is very dirty."
"The ground water is being depleted on a very large scale. Lands are caving in because there is no more ground water to hold up the surface.
Benally said greed is what fuels the Navajo government.
"They want to get rich. What about the future generations?
"The council was told that they have no choice in the matter because they do not have the upper hand."
Benally has seen first hand the devastation from climate change in the Arctic. Coal fired power plants on this continent are the primary source of global warming and the melting of ice in the Arctic. Native villages have collapsed with the ground beneath them, and polar bears, walruses and other wildlife are losing their habitat.
There is an alternative to continuing the genocidal path of the dirty coal industry, she said.
"Coal is a depleting resource. California and Nevada have stopped buying coal and Arizona needs to focus on renewable resources," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, there was no indication as to whether the Navajo Generating Station and its owners, including its operator Salt River Project, would agree to the new terms in the lease, which were esetablished by the Navajo Nation Council.
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