Lawsuit Seeks Release of Public Records for Peabody Coal Operations on Tribal Lands in Arizona

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brad Bartlett, Attorney, Energy Minerals Law Center, (970) 247-9334          
Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition, (928) 213-5909
Andy Bessler, Sierra Club, (928) 774-6103
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713

Lawsuit Seeks Release of Public Records for Peabody Coal Operations on Tribal Lands in Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - Native American and conservation groups sued the U.S. Department of
the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) in federal court in
Colorado on Thursday for withholding records relating to Peabody
Energy’s coal-mining operations on tribal lands in northeast Arizona.
To date, the agency has refused to publicly release records relating to
Peabody’s coal-mining operations — including a copy of a current, valid
operating permit for Peabody’s mining. The lawsuit was brought under
the Freedom of Information Act.

“For decades, OSM has quietly issued permits to Peabody
in a way that has thwarted meaningful public involvement and community
understanding of Peabody’s mine operations,” said Nikke Alex, executive
director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. “OSM’s permitting actions
have a direct and irreparable impact on our community. These records
must be released to the public.”

Peabody, the largest coal-mine operator in the
world, runs the 40,000-acre Kayenta Mine and adjacent 18,000-acre Black
Mesa Mine on Navajo Nation and Hopi tribal lands in northeastern
Arizona. On April 9, citizens submitted a FOIA request to OSM for
records related to the agency’s renewal of Peabody’s Kayenta Mine
operating permit. On June 4, OSM’s office in Denver, Colorado ended the
public comment period for Peabody’s renewal permit without releasing
the requested records (including a copy of Peabody’s operating
permit).

“The records requested under FOIA are integral to public
understanding of OSM’s renewal of Peabody’s operating permit,” said
Brad Bartlett, an attorney with the Energy Minerals Law Center.
“These records should be readily available for public release by the
agency. Instead, citizens are forced to take legal action to acquire
Peabody’s permitting records.”  

“By denying and delaying public release of the operating
permit, OSM protects Peabody and unjustly shuts out impacted
communities and the public in Peabody’s permitting process,” said
Cynthia Pardo of the Sierra Club’s Plateau Group. “By filing this
lawsuit with our tribal partners, we are seeking greater transparency
and accountability by the Obama administration for Navajo and Hopi
communities impacted by Peabody’s coal mining on Black Mesa.” 

Peabody's Black Mesa mine slurried coal via a 273-mile
pipeline to the Mohave Generating Station from 1970 to 2005. The
company’s Kayenta mine has supplied coal to the Navajo Generating
Station since 1973. Both mines have caused significant hydrological
impacts due to massive groundwater depletion from Peabody’s historic
coal-slurry and related mine operations.

“Peabody’s coal-mining operations will contribute to
global warming-related droughts and exacerbate the drying effects of
groundwater depletion on wells, springs and creeks,” said Taylor
McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “OSM’s inability to
produce a valid operating permit for Peabody raises a whole host of
questions. This lawsuit will force full disclosure.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Black Mesa Water
Coalition, Center for Biological Diversity, Dine Citizens Against
Ruining Our Environment (Dine CARE), Sierra Club and TO’ Nizhoni Ani.
Plaintiffs are being represented by attorneys Brad Bartlett and Travis
Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colo.

To download a copy of the complaint, click here.

For more background information please visit: www.blackmesawatercoalition.org.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: