The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Wahleah Johns, Black Mesa Water Coalition, (928) 637-5281,
David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club, (213) 387-6528 x 214,
Amy Atwood, Center for Biological Diversity, (541) 914-8372,

Hopi and Navajo Residents Stop Peabody's Coal Mine Expansion on Black Mesa

Interior Department Judge Vacates Permit for Peabody’s Black Mesa Mines


Peabody Western Coal Company's Black Mesa Coal Complex has suffered
a major setback as an administrative law judge for the U.S. Department
of the Interior vacated
a permit for the massive coal-mining complex. The judge vacated the
permit in response to one of several appeals filed by Navajo and Hopi
residents as well as a diverse coalition of tribal and environmental
groups. The permit, issued by Interior's Office of Surface Mining,
Reclamation and Enforcement, allowed Peabody to operate and expand the
Black Mesa mine and the Kayenta mine under a single permit.

Wahleah Johns, co-director of Black Mesa Water Coalition and one of the
petitioners in the appeal: "As a community member of Black Mesa I am
grateful for this decision. For 40 years our sacred homelands and
people have borne the brunt of coal-mining impacts, from relocation to
depletion of our only drinking-water source. This ruling is an
important step toward restorative justice for indigenous communities
who have suffered at the hands of multinational companies like Peabody
Energy. This decision is also precedent-setting for all other
communities who struggle with the complexities of NEPA laws and OSM
procedures in regards to environmental protection. However, we also
cannot ignore the irreversible damage of coal mining industries
continues on the land, water, air, people and all living things."

administrative law judge's order decides issues raised by members of
the Hopi Nation in one of many appeals brought in response to the
Office of Surface Mining's final permit, which was issued in the waning
days of the Bush administration. The "life of mine" permit issued by
the agency authorized and expanded mining operations at Black Mesa
beyond the year 2026 for the remaining portion of an estimated total of
670 million tons of coal. The order cited violations of the National
Environmental Policy Act.

"This is a huge victory
for the communities of Black Mesa impacted by coal mining and proof
that Peabody can't have its way on Black Mesa anymore," said Sierra
Club's Hertha Woody, also a member of the Navajo Nation. "Coal is a
dirty, dangerous and outdated energy source that devastates
communities, jeopardizes drinking water and destroys wildlife habitats.
This decision is yet another example of why it no longer makes sense to
burn coal to get electricity."

The Black Mesa Coal
Mine Complex has a long history of controversy stemming from concerns
about air and water pollution, impacts to local residents, the drying
of aquifers and sacred springs, and coal's contribution to global
warming. Heavy metals and pollutants that result from mining operations
are toxic to humans and harmful to wildlife.

is a vindication of what we have been saying for years," said Amy
Atwood of the Center for Biological Diversity. "As a result of this
huge victory, business as usual at Black Mesa has come to an end and a
transition toward a green-energy economy in the Four Corners region can
truly begin."

"It is good news that our concerns
were heard. Water is very precious that should not be used for coal
mining but instead should be used for our people. I am pleased with
this outcome," said Calvin Johnson of the grassroots organization
C-Aquifer for Dine'.

The coalition of tribal and
environmental groups who filed a related appeal of the permit included
the Black Mesa Water Coalition, Dine C.A.R.E., Dine Hataalii
Association, Inc., To Nizhoni Ani, C-Aquifer for Dine, Dine Alliance,
Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Natural Resources
Defense Council. Legal representation in the appeal was given by the
Energy Minerals Law Center attorneys Brad Bartlett and Travis Stills
and Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.

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.

(520) 623-5252