Some Victories, but Also 2 Steps Back
By Nellis Kennedy-Howard (NAVAJO TIMES)
November 2, 2011
With only two months left of 2011, let's take a look back at the year's regional victories. The EPA has finally completed the long awaited and overdue plan for cleanup at the northeast Church Rock Uranium Mine site. The Crownpoint Chapter House has made momentous history by becoming the first solar-powered chapter house in the nation. And New Mexico has upheld the most stringent carbon cap in the nation. However, there is still much work to be done. For many of these "victory steps" we've taken, we have also taken two steps back.
Please consider President Shelly's decision to line-item veto funds for the Navajo Green Commission. Years and years of work by individual tribal members and by collective groups have been undone with the single stroke of President Shelly's pen. This has forced the Navajo Nation to continue our destruction of mother earth.
Shelly explains by indicating that the Green Commission was created to seek outside dollars, in essence, Shelly is warning the commission not to expect any money from the Navajo Nation, ever.
In doing so, Shelly has cut the legs out from under the commission. Without the support and backing of the nation, what can the commission be expected to do?
All the while, Shelly boasts of the "need to work toward solutions that lessen the restrictions Native nations face when trying to create new jobs."
It seems to many that by cutting the funding to the Navajo Green Commission, Shelly has critically restricted any opportunity to create and encourage green jobs creation.
Meanwhile, Shelly continues down the same desperate and dirty path to develop our limited resource of coal. Understandably so, considering the decades of financial contribution coal has provided to Navajo communities. However, Shelly should be demanding much more.
The Navajo Generating Station is up for EPA review and the question is whether to require a cleaner facility by installing better technology (select catalytic reduction technology). Shelly does not like this idea and says the cost would be too great for the nation to bear. What he is really saying, is that a cleaner coal facility and cleaner air for the region is not worth the price tag.
This is not to say that an altogether cleaner option does not exist. The Navajo Nation sits in some of the country's most solar rich regions.
Shelly has stated that the "Nation will continue to seek to develop a cleaner portfolio to include such renewable sources as wind, solar and biomass," but with the Green Commission's funding being denied, where are the efforts to develop a cleaner portfolio?
After having finally received a bit of the attention that the Church Rock uranium site deserves, it is saddening to recount the energy plan passed just a few short months ago. By including language that dances around the idea of future uranium development, the president makes the nation vulnerable to the already existing predatory uranium companies who seek to mine at Navajo.
Right now, the Navajo Nation is recognized for wonderful things, such as our remarkable peacemaking justice system, the role of code talkers in World War II and our language retention.
Already being home to the country's largest radioactive spill, do we really want it to also be recognized for being burned twice by uranium companies? We need to quit playing with fire and look towards sustainable solutions.
The Navajo Nation's current energy policies are outdated and not our own. We have adopted the energy tactics of our colonizer and in doing so, we have hurt our mother. We have mined her to the point of our own demise.
Our families and communities are already suffering from contaminated water. We must reconsider the real cost of keeping the Navajo Generating Station open in its current state. The price of cleaner air is worth every dime.
Original written work can be found at http://navajotimes.com/opinions/index.php