Big Coal in Black Mesa, AZ

Stop Peabody Coal from Destroying the land and peoples of Black Mesa

Like the Wizard behind the curtain, ignore what Bush said about alternative energy in his State of the Union Address. Look at his concern as simple rhetoric to placate the critics, wash over the bad press, and shift citizen’s thinking to that of a gentle lamb. As Bush spouts desires of a cleaner future, a war looms across the nation. Battles have already been fought, one is going on right now, and a larger framing of the debate has begun.

As we speak, California plans to try to curtail global warming by banning dirty power. Dirty power is electricity derived from coal plants. That’s right, the USA still gets most of its energy needs from 19th-century technology. California hopes to set the trend for banning this old form of power, and it has the billions of dollars of Silicon Valley venture capital to back it up.

Elsewhere in the USA, the great state of Texas has decided to remain firmly in the 1800s. Rolling Stone magazine recently reported that “TXU [a Texas energy corporation] agreed to delay some of its price hikes until after voters went to the polls — and two weeks later, [Texas Governor] Perry issued an executive order fast-tracking permits for the new power plants that TXU and other coal companies want to build.” Writer Jeff Goodell brings the complex political maneuvering home, stating that “coal is only profitable because its pollution-related costs — blasted mountains, increases in asthma and heart attacks, neurological damage from toxic mercury, environmental chaos caused by global warming — are all offloaded onto the public.”

Where is ground zero for all of those nasty “offloaded” costs? Most Americans don’t know that the peoples of the Black Mesa region in Arizona are the front line for this growing battle of forward and backward thinking. Peabody Western Coal, the world’s largest coal company, has plans to extend its mining operations on Black Mesa and has filed a lease extension application with the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM). The corporation also wishes to be able to mine the coal until it runs out, and also use millions of gallons of precious water to ship the coal.

They released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in the middle of a weeks-long Hopi ritual, and only gave opponents a very short term to comment on the over 700 page report. On top of the obvious health and environmental factors mentioned above, the expansion of the mining operation would also force Native American families to relocate off of lands that they see as sacred. Many families still refuse to relocate and have consistently been the “barricades” for stopping continued growth over the years.

Last night, I went to a letter-writing gathering to comment on the DEIS, and e-mailed a letter and mailed another. If the letter-writing does anything, it slows down the process and creates a public statement for use in a future trial. Anyone can submit comments to the Office of Surface Mining, not just those living on the Navajo Reservation. All comments are due into OSM by February 6th, 2007, and you all can easily e-mail a form letter here.

As the battle for global warming continues to gain attention, Big Coal will continue to move forward with their backward-thinking mentality. TXU and Peabody continue to line the pockets of the politicians that make the rules, appoint the federal employees that make the decisions, and let the coal industry continue to cause offloaded suffering for the population.

And, at the front of this battle, indigenous peoples in Black Mesa, backed by generations of tradition, continue to suffer the worst for the profits of so little. Lines have been drawn over the years, and continue to get drawn, but the potential to use all the water in Black Mesa to strip mine coal to power the new plants in Texas overshadows the need for more energy. Where solutions are easy to come by: simple energy conservation can go a long way, and California’s continued efforts to lead the nation into the future can set much-needed precedents, the native peoples of Black Mesa need your help RIGHT NOW!

Please take a few minutes and send the letter of comment. Also visit Stop Peabody, BMIS, and BMWC to find out more about how Big Coal plans on staying in business.

And how we can all stop their progress.