Skip to comments.Ariz. mine closure throws Indians out of work
Posted on 01/01/2006 12:28:36 PM PST by bkwells
BLACK MESA, Ariz. The gigantic earthmoving crane sits idle, stilled by a legal, cultural and environmental dispute playing out far from the rich vein of coal beneath the desert of remote northeastern Arizona.
Some welcome the idling of the crane, calling it a symbol of the rape of the land and precious water below. Others, mostly American Indians who have come to depend on the high-paying jobs at the mine, are furious.
For 35 years, the Black Mesa Mine has produced coal for a power plant in southern Nevada. But the plant suspended operations at the end of December, ending the jobs of nearly 200 people.
Most are Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe members whose livelihoods depend on work at the mine, jobs that pay as much as $80,000 a year in wages and benefits 10 times the average annual income on the reservations.
The mine is ceasing work indefinitely because the sole power plant it supplies the Mohave Generating Station, 273 miles away in Laughlin, Nev. is shutting down under a legal agreement with environmental groups that sued because of repeated pollution violations.
The power plant is owned by four utilities that have balked at paying the estimated $1 billion in upgrades to comply with the court order and keep the plant operating.
One idled worker is Myrata Cody, 48, a heavy-equipment operator at Black Mesa for 27 years. She's a Navajo and a single mother, providing support for three children and her aging parents. Her anger at losing her job drives her to tears.
"This income is the only thing I have," Cody said. "There is no power line to my house, no phone line, no running water. Everybody else has everything at the tip of their hands."
She reserved particular ire for the environmentalists who went after the owners of the power plant to try to stop the thick plume of smoke and noxious chemicals it has poured into the atmosphere for decades. The groups contended that the emissions fouled the air over the Grand Canyon and threatened the health of people who lived downwind.
"All those people protesting for the environmental groups, none of them live up here," Cody said. "If this plant shuts down, some of us are going to have to leave our elderly parents behind to go find work. Who's going to go out there and check on them, make sure they get their medication? Nobody from the environmental groups, that's for sure."
The mine is operated by Peabody Western Coal Co., a subsidiary of Peabody Energy Corp., the world's largest coal company, which has made tens of millions of dollars from the Black Mesa mine. But it also has poured millions of dollars into schools, community centers, roads and power lines on the Indian lands of northeastern Arizona, though basic services are still lacking in much of the tribal region.
It provides $89 million a year in payroll, lease payments, taxes and other benefits to this region, where unemployment among the Hopi and Navajo is nearly 40 percent.
Buck Woodward, the mine's manager, called the closing of Black Mesa "a tragedy" that could hinder economic development on the reservations for years.
Wow! I used to frequent that part of the river (Topock, Needles) quite a bit since the early 70's through the mid 90's. When did they do that?
Great. I remember when they just broke ground at that marina, I bet it is nice. I hope the Navajo's kick their collective butts in court on that matter.
I hadn't heard the latest...have the environazi's given up on draining Powell yet? Have they failed in that respect, and now concentrating on the "Recreation" vs. "Park" issue now?
***The Indians will always live under those conditions until we, and they, get serious and flush the goofy notions of "sovereign nations" and reservations. Businesses will never move into these places as long as they are going to be forced to deal with corrupt tribal governments.***
Remember what happened to the Fairchild plant in Gallup back in 1975?
***"This income is the only thing I have," Cody said. "There is no power line to my house, no phone line, no running water. Everybody else has everything at the tip of their hands." ***
But, but, Indians I have known have been crying about wanting to go back and live as their ancestors did!
Here is her chance!
They live in Gods Country for sure and their leaders and our laws hold them back generation after generation. You want a new car? Buy a refrigerator, washing machine, etc., and then we'll give you money for a new car -- but don't worry that you don't have electricity to run the refrigerator or washing machine -- just place it in your front yard and let it rust. Socialism at it's best.
As a matter of fact a famous (don't ask me his name) photographer stopped a cold, snowy day to photograph the plant in Page and was surrounded by FBI (post 911) demanding his cameras -- agreed to erase the photos (but didn't format the hard drive) and was let go with the camera....
Long story short, the guy sold one of the photos to Al Gore who uses the photos in his Global Warming literature -- had nothing to do with Global Warming -- was a cold, snowy, day and the steam from the plant (in black and white) looked like they were polluting.
Obviously you've never heard the term "Indian Giver". ;-)
Everyone on this end of the river gets nervous these days about pollution. Right now Las Vegas wants to put their effluent back into Mead and then into the river... sounds harmless enough until you see test results that find all the drugs people pee out isn't being filtered in the cleaning of the effluent and more and more fish are starting to show the results... I would never touch fish out of Mead or any of our lakes below Mead. I would rather see the effluent used to water their gold courses, lawns, etc... and keep it out of the lake(s).
I hope not. A "R" doesn't stand a chance in Flagstaff and more libs are moving into the area from California looking for our cheaper AZ taxes.
I have a friend who teaches on the Reservation. She can tell stories that makes you hair stand on end.... like they encourage theft from white people, lying to white people, etc... racism is alive and well on the Navajo Reservation, which is a shame... and I agree, we should have never agreed to a reservation system for Native American's, the only cure is assimilation.
Evidentally quite a while ago.. closed down their plant in the area and dumped into the sand and left, don't know what they thought would come of the effluent. ADEQ has a site to track the cleanup effort.
Unfortunately the majority of people hearing this will say: GREAT make it a National Park and never look at the ramifications of such..... but once you look at Yellowstone and other National Parks with Lakes you see what they have in mind.
They lost the push through the Bluewater Network to run jet skis off all the lake (now I hate the noise of jet ski's but next would be boats) so now they are trying a new back door approach and claim they have the Navajo on board in their quest.
I find that strange because their new Marina is very, very, classy, but then there is this medicine man who is literally in bed with the enviro's and wants the White Man off the lake and away from Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge, so anything is possible.
The bad thing is the enviro's are backed by the likes of Robert Kennedy's Waterkeepers Alliance (follow the dots from the Board of Directors for Glen Canyon Institute and Living Rivers) and with the 501c3's have unlimited time to keep after this, the rest of us have to work for a living.
It only takes one person to make a motion to make it a National Park and heaven knows how some of the Senators downstream would vote (Feinstein, Boxer, McCain)... and the Eastern Senators would be clueless... so it is a worry.
Thanks for the informative post, and Happy New Year to you, Carolyn!
Right on! I agree 100%.
Prescott and the Verde Valley are more than enough to offset Flagstaff.
I certainly hope so... a lot of Californian's have been moving there... if from Orange and San Bernardino County then more likely to vote "R"... I know my uncle just moved to Prescott and is amazed at the lower car insurance and electricity compared to Cypress, where he moved from.
PG&E Outlines Chromium Cleanup
by Paul LaVoie, TSN
TOPOCK, AZ - Pacific Gas & Electric is correcting its handling practices of a cancer-causing causing compound it released near the Colorado River over 50 years ago. The utility is proposing to decontaminate an aquifer found to contain high levels of chromium-6 near it's compressor station in California located a half-mile southwest of the town of Topock on I-40.
In its most recent report, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board found that from 1951 to 1964, PG&E discharged untreated wastewater containing hexavalent chromium from a compressor station cooling tower to "percolation beds" in Bat Cave Wash, a stream bed that empties into the Colorado River. An aquifer of chromium-6 contaminated groundwater has since accumulated near the river, and in 2004 PG&E began pumping the contaminated water and transporting it to a hazardous waste handler. The plan for disposal of carcinogenic waste water is complicated, but poses little or no threat to the environment. PG&E will drill a series of wells both in and around the aquifer.
Three of the "injection wells" will each hold 6,000 gallons of a food-grade, sodium lactate solution designed to reduce the chromium-6 contamination to a non-hazardous chromium-3 state.
The California Regional Water Quality Control Board's complete findings can be found online, and include a site map of the contaminated area. The board will consider the revised proposal in a public hearing on January 18th at 10:00am, at the regional offices located in Palm Desert, California.
Additionally, the findings noted the PG&E disposal plan could affect the way future chromium-6 contaminations are handled, depending on the results at the Topock compressor station.
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