A brief summary of the Legacy of the Undermining of the Navajo Nation by the U.S. Governement
To: U. S. Department of Energy, Legacy Management: 2016-2025 Strategic Plan
Date: December 4, 2015
Subject: Comments on Legacy Management: 2016-2025 Strategic Plan
Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts and experiences. I do understand that you are principally concerned with management of uranium mining going forward. I am sure you are aware of the travesty of legacy mining in the past, especially on Native American Lands. This legacy must be addressed.
I have several concerns about the function and efficacy of DOE. The first is the connection with Congress. One example is that in a Senate hearing on Oak Flat Exchange (S.409) in approximately 2009, Arizona Senator John Kyl stated that copper was needed for renewable energy for windmills. I knew that DOE had done an excellent report stating that copper was not useful for windmill energy because copper was too heavy: “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy” (http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy08osti/41869.pdf). Why didn't the Senator know it? I did advise his staff person, Lucy Murfitt of his error, but the damage of speaking erroneous information for public records had already occurred.
Second, and most important, I am concerned with the slow motion of the legacy uranium cleanups, especially on Native American land. I have written several extensive reports to Congress as input to various hearings, but I feel nothing has been done. I am going to submit them as comments as they are packed with information (although some is not relevant to DOE, it will assist you in getting the bigger picture.) Also, I think it is important that you be aware of the information that has been given to certain Congressional committees. One example in in the Fall of 2007, I submitted a report to Congress: “Urgency of mining law reform: Uranium mining impacts, emphasizing situation on Native American lands, compels the immediate need for action.” (http://www.mining-law-reform.info/Urgency.htm).
The Native American legacy uranium mining is a tragedy, and a crime against humanity, created by the Federal Government. For some 50 years, it appears that no Federal Agency is willing to take responsibility. Residual hazardous waste has existed for generations now. Two Native American women, Deb Abrahamson (Spokane Nation-WA) and Laura Watchepino (Acoma Nation-NM) have told me that there are no elders in their tribes because of the poisoning of the land, water and air by uranium mining. I have not reached an understanding of how mining companies were allowed to come in and destroy land and environment for big bucks paid by U.S. government and then walk away with no clean up. I do know that the Native American workers on these mines were paid less and had little or no safety equipment and training in procedures of handling uranium. I live in Arizona near Twin Buttes mine in Sahuarita. Yellow cake was mined and produced there for over ten years (1970-1982). I know miners who worked there and they had optimum safety equipment and training—and were paid $15.00 and hour in 1980. Some thirty years later, none of them have had any medical problems.
EPA is supposed to be responsible? DOI is supposed to be responsible? I wrote another report to Congress this year on the problems on Native American lands, at the time when a river was polluted on the Navajo Nation land. This incident brings up the fact that the Navajo do not have a Water Settlement. The Arizona Navajos do not have water rights to the Little Colorado that flows right through their land, and Peabody Coal has been sucking up their aquifer with no agreement with the Nation. The water give-away was handled by BLM/DOI. Federal pollution on Navajo Land:
The Navajo are particularly worthy of being highlighted because they are the worse-case scenario. In the recent $3.4 billion class action DOI Native American Settlement: Corbell v Babbitt-Norton-Salizar, the Navajos received almost half the money, which indicated that the financial mistreatment of the Navajo Nation was equal to that of all Nations put together. The sixteen-year law suit through was so egregious on the part of the DOI that Secretary Babbit was cited by the Court for contempt. A law review of the 1,200 page law suit: Unbroken Chain by Pro-Bono Attorney A.H. Merijan: https://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2011/09/Merjian.pdf
Although the law suit does not directly deal with pollution, it is the monies that the Native Americans should have received though the years for land leases when they were moved for Federal Government purposes, including mining. I'm sure you will find it a very worthwhile read, so I have included it.
The young people are speaking up, for example, a Navajo young man, David Yankus:
Note that there are over 500 un-remediated and abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation alone, so when I look at your list of plans to remediate 39 sites in 2011-2016, only one Navajo site is listed. It does seem inadequate. Can you possibly do better?
My third concern is that BLM has taken total control of Native American lands. BLM reps were recently going around with hearing sessions on coal mining with the idea to charge more for coal on public lands. The information on coal mining is on the http://www.g-a-l.info/NavajoHearing.htm web page. Will charging more for the coal give the Native Americans more security when their whole Nation is being turned into a toxic dump??
The Navajos have no jurisdiction over their own graves and artifacts. They are now in a battle with Peabody Coal to retrieve the bones of their ancestors and artifacts that Peabody moved elsewhere to facilitate their coal mining. The Navajos want to rebury their ancestors with their traditional ceremonies. This is a horrific cultural infraction as the Native Americans honor their ancestors, as do many other cultures, such as Japan, India, China. [ http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/black-mesa-mines-native-americans-demand-ancestral-bones-navajo ] I remember when I attended a mining meeting in Globe, NM with local Native Americans who were attempting to save Mt. Taylor (sacred to them) from further uranium mining. There were glass cases full of beautiful old pottery in the civic center. A woman from Acoma Nation said to me, “These are all our ancestral treasures that they have displayed here.”
I thank you for your efforts to address the problems of hazardous waste and remediation on sites throughout the U.S. and especially on Native American reservations, which are to be held in trust for protection, not maintained for ruin and exploitation.
I hope the information I have given you will help you in your campaign to receive more funds and contractors—there's a lot of work to be done. I have put this information on the Groundwater Awareness League website for easy use to ensure that the links work properly.
Senator Martin Heinrich