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At long Last, some compensation to Navajo for uranium mining’s disastrous legacy

Navajo to benefit from $1B for uranium Navajocleanup By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press | April 3, 2014 FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — More than $1 billion is going to help clean up abandoned uranium mines that have left a legacy of disease and death on the Navajo Nation.

The money is part of a $5.15 billion settlement that the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. for the cleanup of thousands of long-contaminated sites nationwide. The settlement announced Thursday resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a 2005 spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp. that Anadarko acquired in 2006.

Kerr-McGee once operated about 50 uranium mines in the Lukachukai Mountains of northeastern Arizona near Cove and a uranium mill in Shiprock, N.M. Uranium waste was thrust over the mountain side and carried by rainwater across the land used by hikers, anglers, medicine men and Navajo shepherds, said David Taylor, an attorney with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.

“I have a feeling of just deep appreciation for the Navajo children, who literally are playing in uranium piles today who aren’t going to have to do that in the future,” he said.

But, Taylor added: “The path before us is still monumental. We’ve got a good start now, and I hope we can build on that.”

The more than $1 billion will address about 10 percent of the tribe’s inventory of abandoned uranium mines. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from the reservation from 1944 to 1986 for wartime weapons. Many families still live among the contamination and fear drinking water polluted by uranium. Navajo President Ben Shelly said the settlement will ease some concerns about public health.

About $1 billion of the money benefiting the Navajo Nation will be administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Francisco. Of that, nearly $87 million will be set aside specifically for two sites known as the Quivira Mines near Church Rock, N.M. The Navajo Nation separately will receive $43 million to address Shiprock mill, where uranium ore was processed near the San Juan River, the EPA said.

The federal government has been working for years with the Navajo Nation to address the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the reservation, but they’ve been hampered by the costs of remediation and the unwillingness of some companies to pay for cleanup of their previous operations.

Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator in San Francisco, said federal agencies spent about $100 million as part of a five-year cleanup plan. The EPA is drafting a second, five-year plan, but the budget is expected to be much less, he said.

“The mess that’s on the Navajo Nation in terms of abandoned uranium mines should never have been put there, and all of us have been waiting for this day to start to make a big dent in the cleanup,” he said.

The mountainous sites near Cove rarely are visited, but a network of roads established for mining, logging and firewood gathering provide access. Tribal officials say Navajo medicine men gather plants and herbs for prayer and healing purposes from the mountains, and families set up summer camps where sheep graze nearby.

The federal government initially sought $25 billion to clean up decades of contamination at dozens of sites. A U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York ruled in December that Kerr-McGee improperly shifted its environmental liabilities to Tronox and should pay between $5.15 billion and $14.2 billion, plus attorneys’ fees.

Anadarko CEO Al Walker said the settlement eliminates the uncertainty of the dispute.

Blumenfeld said Navajos have struggled with the legacy of uranium contamination for too long. He said dozens of tribal members already have been trained in how to properly dispose of and transport contaminated waste, and they soon can be put to work.

“It’s one of those environmental justice burdens that has garnered a lot of attention and, thankfully, now it’s garnering a lot of money,” Blumenfeld said.


April 4, 2014 - Posted by | indigenous issues, Uranium, USA

1 Comment »

  1. […] At long Last, some compensation to Navajo for uranium mining’s disastrous legacy: One billion dollars has been allocated to help clean up abandoned uranium mines which have left a legacy of disease and death at the Navajo reservation in Dineh territories. The money is park of a five-point-five billion dollar settlement that the federal government reached with Anandarko Petroleum Corporation for long-contaminated sites around the US. About 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined from the reservation from 1944 to 1986 for wartime weapons. Many families still live among the contamination and fear their drinking water is polluted by uranium. Over five-hundred uranium mines were abandoned on the reservation, and in many cases uranium waste was literally dumped off cliffs and carried by rainwater across the land. Companies involved in the mining and dumping have refused to engage in cleanup efforts. This settlement, while significant in many ways, will only be able to put a dent in the cleanup efforts. Anadarko, the main company named in the settlement, is the same company which wants to develop fracking extraction for gas on public lands in Pennsylvania’s Loyalsock State forest, which we’ve covered multiple times on this show, including last week. Exxon to Reopen Ruptured Arkansas Pipeline: ExxonMobil has announced it will reopen it’s idled Pegasus oil pipeline, including the 1940s-era segment that ruptured and dumped sticky tar-like Canadian dilbit into an Arkansas neighborhood. Since the spill last year, the pipeline’s fate was unknown, but last week Exxon released a one-page summary of how it plans to fix the pipeline and start using it again to transport oil. The announcement comes despite ExxonMobil’s inability to declare the cause of last year’s failure. Mexico: bidding set to start on energy sector: For the first time in seventy-five years, Mexico is planning to open two-thirds of it’s oil and gas reserves to bidding from private companies. This comes on the heels of president Enrique Peña Nieto’s quote-unquote “energy reform” program, which was enabled after changes to the Mexican constitution. Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil and gas company estimates that Mexico has one hundred and twelve billion barrels of oil and gas–but more than half is in unconventional sources such as shale gas. The government claims that the program will increase production from two-point-five million to six million barrels a day. Martí Batres, president of the National Regeneration Movement party, called the production goal irrational. He says QUOTE “This will also produce more greenhouse gases, global warming and other environmental consequences” UNQUOTE SeaWorld Whales are Pumped with Valium and Xanax to Control Their Aggressive Behavior: Whales at SeaWorld have been put on psychoactive drugs akin to Valium. This was recently revealed in documents which emerged during a court case between the marine park and it’s rival Marineland. The drug being used on whales at SeaWorld is a sedative which is administered to control erratic behavior, and is known for giving prolonged users psychotic reactions. SeaWorld has been in the spotlight over the past couple years for abusing whales and dolphins, and animal rights activists have branded this latest scandal as the final straw. In a press release, the animal rights organization PETA says QUOTE ‘SeaWorld is in deep trouble and hot water since Blackfish showed the mental anguish of orcas taken from the great oceans and trapped for eternity in SeaWorld’s swimming pools – and now court documents have revealed that SeaWorld also pumps these marine beings full of psychotropic drugs in order to force them to perform stupid tricks.” UNQUOTE Victory in Washington: Biomass Expansion Project Scrapped:   Port Townsend Paper Corp. has abandoned a much-disputed $54 million project that would have upgraded the mill’s biomass cogeneration plant. The project would have allowed the factory to burn forest biomass to create twenty four megawatts for sale as quote-unquote “green energy”. The project had been strongly opposed by local environmental groups, who challenge the idea that burning forest material could be considered sustainable. PT Paper Corp had been facing lawsuits and investigations from local environmental groups. While the company denies that such pressure played a role in closing the plan, PT AirWatchers director Gretchen Brewer says QUOTE “It does vindicate what we have been saying all along : that this is a dirty, polluting project” UNQUOTE. Lawsuit Launched to Protect Rare Lynx From Traps in Idaho: Three conservation groups initiated a lawsuit today against the governor of Idaho and other state officials to halt trapping that illegally kills one of the rarest cats in the United States, the Canada lynx. The Canada lynx is a threatened species that numbers as few as one-hundred animals in the state of Idaho, where the rare animals are under unprecedented threat from recreational trapping. Although the intentional trapping of lynx is not permitted under Idaho law, with increases in trapping licenses and fur prices, especially for bobcat, at least three lynx have been unintentionally trapped by bobcat trappers in just the last two years. Under the Endangered Species Act, trapping of lynx, even if released alive, is illegal. Any agency permitting such trapping is liable under the Endangered Species Act. Louisa Wilcox, Northern Rockies representative of the Center for Biological Diversity says QUOTE ““Trapping permitted by the state of Idaho is directly helping to push these rare, beautiful animals toward extinction, this is a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act.” UNQUOTE. Canada Lynx are specially suited for hunting in deep snow, with thick cushions of hair on the soles of their feet which act like built-in snowshoes. The Canada Lynx gained endangered species act protection in the spring of 2000 after one petition and two lawsuits were filed on the lynx’s behalf. Visit our website for links, including a video of Canada Lynx hunting a snowshoe hare. Panama: Ngöbe-Buglé step up fight against dam: In Panama, Silvia Carrera, the traditional leader of the indigenous ‘Naw-bey’ presented an appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice concerning land expropriated for the controversial Barro Blanco dam. Her appeal confronts a law which allows Panama’s public services authority to expropriate, evict, and indemnify the population living beside the Tabasara river where the dam is being built. Around three-thousand people will be relocated because of the project, which is now more than half completed. The Naw-bey people have been protesting the construction of the dam for the past two years, insisting that since the project is in their designated territory, construction should never have been started without consultation. Protesters have set up barricades and a camp at the dam’s construction site in an effort to block the work. The April Tenth Movement, an independent Indiginous community group, announced it would publicize information on attacks on human rights and environmental damage in the territory with the goal of stopping the dam, which if completed would flood three villages, cut residents off from food sources and destroy cultural monuments. ALF Burn Vehicle of Pro-Bullfighting Mayor in France: In an anonymous communique published at direct action – dot – info and translated into English, an Animal Liberation Front cell claims responsibility for an arson which targeted a mayor in France. The mayor of Rodilhan, Serge Reder is a known supporter of bullfighting. The ALF, set fire to vans owned by the mayor. In their statement they warn other bullfighters QUOTE “to every pro-bullfighting fanatic : we will continue until total abolition. The blood has to stop flowing” UNQUOTE. Bolivia: three dead in miners’ protests: In Bolivia, thousands of miners blocked highways for five days to protest a new pending mining law, which would expand the rights of mining corporations to exploit adjacent watersheds, and to compulsory purchase lands which protect those waters. Under the current law, mining operations are restricted to exploit water within their concession area. At least ten roadblocks in five different areas of Bolivia shut down highways. The Bolivian national police attacked protesters, killing at least three miners in clashes. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation. At Age 92, WWII Veteran Arrested For Protesting Mining: Ninety-two year old World War Two veteran is arrested while occupying an area being developed by Whitehaven Coal in the Leard State Forest in Australia. The forest is being destroyed to make way for a mega-mine, which is said to produce over thirteen metric tons of coal each year. The veterans name is Bill Ryan, and he took action against both the specific coal mining development, and also to show the urgency of climate change as a whole. In an article he wrote for the Guardian he writes QUOTE  “I’ve only got a few years left, but I feel in my conscience that I have to take this stand. I’m happy to say that I’ve been here on four occasions, and each time, the numbers are increasing. This sort of direct action is the way of the future.” UNQUOTE Bill Ryan’s article explains his experience demonstrating against the mine. You can read the full article on our website Direct Action: Lockdowns Stop Gas Project in Two Locations:   Also in Australia, ten protesters involved in the ‘Lock the Gate’ movement shut down gas drilling at a compound in the Pilliga Forest in New South Wales. One of the protesters locked himself under a coal seam gas rig truck, and six others locked themselves to the drilling machinery.   The gas company Santos was fined last month for contaminating groundwater with uranium products. Sixty four year old  Mr. Pockley said he had written to Santos, with his concerns, but received no response. Just after sunrise last weekend, Mr. Pockley crawled underneath a stationed truck and wedged his arms in an L-shaped pipe looped through the vehicle. He said that his goal was to slow down operations at the site, which could affect his drinking water if they begin drilling in the area. He said QUOTE “They will have to cut me free, which will be quite difficult without cutting my arms off. I’m not sure how they’re going to do that and I’m quite happy to be here indefinitely and hold up Santos.” UNQUOTE Visit our website, to see a list of these headlines with links to original articles and sources. Eco-Defense Radio is a weekly program right here on community radio WRFI. EVENTS April 9th – GROUNDSWELL RISING, presented by NYYAF: Tomorrow, April 9th, at 7:00pm, New York Youth Against Fracking Presents the film  GROUNDSWELL RISING, which we’ve been talking about on today’s show. All are welcome to the event, although they especially encourage youth under eighteen years old. Directly following the screening there will be a Q & A with Dave Walczak, local filmmaker/associate producer. […]

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