Navajo & Environmental Organizations Appeal Peabody’s Kayenta Coal Mine Permit
February 17, 2012
On February 17, Sierra Club and its allies filed an appeal challenging the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s (OSM) decision to renew a permit for Peabody's massive Kayenta surface coal mine.
The appeal states that OSM revised the permit without considering data and analysis demonstrating that Peabody's pumping of the Navajo Aquifer for coal mining operations is linked to declining water levels, springs and groundwater quality in Navajo communities.
The Navajo Aquifer is the main source of drinking water for thousands of Navajo and Hopi residents. For nearly 40 years Peabody has mined the Kayenta Mine, which supplies approximately 8.5 million tons of coal annually to the Navajo Generating Station in northeastern Arizona. Both the Kayenta Mine and the coal plant operations have significantly impacted the health of several indigenous communities, particularly in the Black Mesa region.
Moreover, OSM’s permit allows Peabody to expand operations into new areas that will force Navajo families to relocate and lose their ancestral homes to more coal development.
The organizations are represented on appeal by attorney Brad Bartlett of the Western Energy Justice Project and Margot Pollans of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown University. The organizations include To Nizhoni Ani, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine C.A.R.E, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.
February 1, 2011
On February 4, 2011, Sierra Club and its allies achieved a significant legal victory when the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) agreed to release important documents related to a massive surface coal mine in Arizona. The Club and its partners filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against OSM in September 2010 after the agency refused to turn over a copy of the surface mining permit and other public records for Peabody Western Coal Company’s Kayenta Mine located on Navajo and Hopi land.
For the past ten years, Sierra Club has supported Navajo and Hopi community members and organizations in their efforts to reduce environmental and health impacts from Peabody’s Black Mesa and Kayenta coal mines in northeast Arizona. The Kayenta Mine produces nearly 8 million tons of coal each year, making it one of the largest surface coal mines in the country. Groundwater from the Navajo aquifer deep below the Black Mesa area feeds springs used by Navajo and Hopi traditional leaders in both ceremonies and daily life. Peabody’s mining operations threaten that use by diverting huge quantities of groundwater from the underlying aquifer in order to create a coal slurry before transporting the mixture to coal-fired power plants. In partnership with tribal community representatives - though not official tribal governments - the Club built a campaign to try to stop Peabody from mining coal on Black Mesa and to force the company to stop withdrawing harmful quantities of groundwater. Although Peabody’s Black Mesa Mine has been shut down, the Kayenta Mine continues to ship coal to the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona.
OSM is poised to renew the surface mine permit for the Kayenta Mine, and the recently disclosed documents will help Sierra Club and its allies assess ways to continue to protect Navajo and Hopi communities from the harmful impacts of surface coal mining in the region.
Sierra Club was joined by Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, and To’ Nizhoni Ani - all non-profit organizations comprised primarily of Navajo, Hopi, or Dine community members - and Center for Biological Diversity in this lawsuit. The coalition was represented by attorney Brad Bartlett from Energy Minerals Law Center.
Details and Documents:
Peabody Coal Mine Permit to Finally be Released to Public
Navajo & Environmental Organizations Partner to Appeal Peabody's Kayenta Coal Permit
February 10, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
February 17, 2012, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Peabody coal mine documentation released
February 15, 2011 by Andy Bessler, Navajo-Hopi Observer
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.