Navajo Post Staff

Navajo Post Staff has 40 articles published.

The Navajo Post Newspaper is a monthly newspaper that covers tribal communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Navajo Nation.

Great Lakes Aviation sues over unpaid fees in Four Corners

in Latest News

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The city of Farmington says Great Lakes Aviation failed to pay landing fees and terminal fees before the company ceased Four Corners Regional Airport service.

The Daily Times of Farmington, New Mexico, reports Farmington filed a complaint in state district court last week asking for the court to order Great Lakes to pay the alleged unpaid fees.

The city alleges Great Lakes owes $693.88 for landing fees and $2,584.49 for terminal rent in September. It also alleges the airline owes $394.25 in landing fees and $2,311.72 in terminal rent for October.

The Cheyenne, Wyoming-based Great Lakes Aviation offered commercial flights to and from Farmington until November 2017. The airline cited a pilot shortage as the primary reason for leaving the Four Corners Regional Airport.

Great Lakes Aviation CEO Doug Voss says he has not seen the lawsuit.

Potential new coal plant operator offers few new details

in Latest News
D0132B Navajo Generating Station, a 2250 megawatt coal-fired power plant located on the Navajo Indian Reservation near Page, Arizona

By FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A Chicago-based company in negotiations to take over a coal-fired power plant in northern Arizona said it would run the generating station at less than half its existing capacity to ensure it’s economical, a company official said Tuesday.

Fewer employees, and a new lease and coal supply agreement also are in the mix as Middle River Power pursues a takeover of the Navajo Generating Station. The current owners of the 2,250-megwatt plant near the Arizona-Utah border are planning to shut it down next year unless someone else buys it, saying power produced by natural gas is cheaper.

Joseph Greco, a senior vice president for Middle River Power, told Arizona utility regulators the company would operate the plant at 44 percent of its capacity, and differently during peak and off-peak demand, making it more economical while ensuring a steady power base. The company offered few other details, citing non-disclosure agreements.

“We believe there is a solution to be made,” Greco said.

The power plant sits on the Navajo Nation and is fed by coal jointly owned by the Navajo and Hopi tribes.
Navajo President Russell Begaye has said a lease agreement with Middle River Power and its parent company, New York-based Avenue Capital, could come before tribal lawmakers at their October session. Still, a sale is considered a longshot.

Tuesday’s meeting before the Arizona Corporation Commission was meant as an update on the plant’s future. The Arizona Corporation Commission doesn’t regulate the power plant or its majority owner, the Salt River Project. But it oversees two Arizona utilities that own shares of the power plant, Tucson Electric Power and Arizona Public Service Co.
The Salt River Project said it’s been in talks with Middle River Power but couldn’t discuss specifics because of a non-disclosure agreement. In the meantime, the utility is working to place employees at the Navajo Generating Station in other jobs at SRP. Deb Scott, senior director of regulatory policy at SRP, said 140 of the 443 employees have left for other jobs, and their previous positions are being filled by contractors.

One of the bigger hurdles for Middle River Power is finding utilities that will buy power from the coal plant.
California and Nevada already are moving away from coal-produced energy. Middle River Power has focused its attention on the Central Arizona Project, which has used the power from the Navajo Generating Station to move water through a canal system to Arizona’s most populous areas but has said it can save money buying power on the open market. Middle River says natural gas is too volatile.

The Navajo Generating Station once was predicted to stay open until 2044, and it’s unclear how long Middle River would run it if a sale is finalized.

Clark Tenakhongva, vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said Tuesday that the tribe needs another five to 10 years to better chart its future. Coal revenue provides about 85 percent of the Hopi Tribe’s budget, and thousands of people rely on coal to heat their homes on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

“If the plant does shut down, that’s another part of the headache I’ll have to address, how am I going to provide heating to all my people up north?” he said.

Coal and lease payments supply about 22 percent of the Navajo Nation budget.

Nicole Horseherder, a Navajo woman who is advocating for the plant to shut down, said she wanted more answers about Middle River’s plans, particularly when it comes to cleaning the site and impacts to tribal members.
“To date, MRP has offered to provide power at competitive prices without a shred of detail on how they will do so or evidence that doing so is even economically feasible,” she wrote to utility regulators.

Arizona tribal casino gambling revenue up by 4.4 percent

in Latest News

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Department of Gaming says contributions to the state from tribal gambling revenue will be more than $27 million for the quarter that ended on June 30.

That’s a 4.4 percent increase when compared with the same quarter in the 2017 fiscal year.

Department of Gaming director Daniel Bergin said Thursday that it’s the sixth consecutive quarter with an increase in statewide tribal gaming revenue.

More than $13 million will go to Arizona’s Instructional Improvement Fund for education with almost $7 million going to support trauma and emergency services.

Other funding is used for the department’s operating costs, state tourism and wildlife conservation.

Tribes with Class III casinos contribute 1 percent to 8 percent of gross gambling revenue to the state, cities, towns and counties.

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in Business Directory

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Navajo Code Talkers Day celebration planned for Tuesday

in Latest News

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo officials say a celebration of the Navajo Code Talkers will be held Tuesday.

The Navajo Nation Office of the president and vice president says this year’s annual event will start at 9 a.m. in Window Rock, Arizona, at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds.

There will be a parade, a wreath ceremony and a 21-gun salute in the morning. A Gourd Dance and a screening of the movie, “Navajo Code Talkers: Journey of Remembrance” will take place in the afternoon.

5th lawsuit filed against EPA over 2015 mine waste spill

in Latest News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A fifth lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a mine waste spill the agency inadvertently triggered in 2015, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 3 in federal court in Albuquerque, New Mexico, by 295 Navajo farmers and ranchers. Their attorney, Kate Ferlic, said Friday the lawsuit asks for about $75 million.

The suit says the farmers and ranchers lost crops and livestock and had to pay to haul clean water because the spill kept them from using the polluted rivers.

The EPA referred questions to Department of Justice officials, who did not immediately return a phone call.
Other defendants include eight companies and subsidiaries that were involved in mining in the area or worked for the EPA.

An EPA-led contractor crew was doing excavation work at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado in August 2015 when it accidentally breached a debris pile that was holding back wastewater inside the mine.
An estimated 3 million gallons (11.4 million liters) of wastewater poured out, carrying nearly 540 tons (490 metric tons) of metals, mostly iron and aluminum.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson consolidated the new lawsuit with four others filed previously by the Navajo Nation, the states of New Mexico and Utah and about a dozen New Mexico residents. Those suits seek a total of $2.3 billion.

The EPA asked the judge last month to dismiss the suits. The agency said the court doesn’t need to intervene because crews are already working on the cleanup.

The judge hasn’t ruled on the request.

Judge: Clerk falsified complaint against Navajo candidate

in Breaking News

By BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A judge who ordered a Utah county to put a Navajo man back on the ballot has determined the county clerk violated state law by improperly dating the residency complaint and by overstepping his role.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer said in his written decision filed Thursday night that Democrat Willie Grayeyes’ rights were violated when San Juan County Clerk John Nielson falsified the complaint by dating it about a month earlier than when it was finalized to “make a backdoor challenge.”

Nuffer said Nielson “overstepped his role by taking on a prosecutorial role; an investigative role; and directing Ms. Black (the complainant) to complete a voter challenge.” Nuffer first announced his decision in a hearing Tuesday.
Grayeyes sued after he was disqualified as a candidate for county commission when county officials determined he didn’t live in the district. Judge Nuffer didn’t rule on the residency question.

Back on the ballot, Grayeyes will have a chance to tip the scales of the county’s power in favor of Democrats and Navajos if he can defeat his Republican challenger in November for a spot on the three-person commission. The other two spots were won at primaries: one by a Republican and one by a Democrat, raising the stakes in Grayeyes’ race.

It is the first election since a judge ruled local voting districts were illegally drawn based on race, and the latest court clash between Navajos and Republican county leaders over voting and election issues in the remote southeastern Utah county. The Navajo Nation overlaps with San Juan County and stretches into Arizona and New Mexico. Many people in the remote areas travel frequently for work and collect their mail across state lines.

Nielson declined comment. His attorney, Blake Hamilton, acknowledged in a statement that the backdating was a “serious lapse in judgment” but said it “had no outcome on the residency challenge.”

Hamilton said it was the first residency challenge Nielson had dealt with in his three years in the post and that he followed his predecessor’s practice of contacting the sheriff’s office to launch an investigation. Nielson backdated the complaint because he thought it was simply formalizing the date of when Wendy Black first tried to file the complaint a month earlier. Nielson later learned she had to fill out a form, Hamilton said.

He added that all of Nielson’s children identify as Navajo and that it has “pained him to witness firsthand the discrimination that they have faced.” His ex-wife, who he was married to for 15 years, is Navajo, Nielson said during questioning by Grayeyes’ attorney in July, court records show. Hamilton didn’t explain if Nielson’s kids were facing discrimination because of his involvement in this case or just because they’re Navajos.

Hamilton didn’t say if the county would appeal.

Grayeyes’ attorney, Steven Boos, said the mistakes can’t be washed away by Nielson’s alleged inexperience. Boos said Nielson has worked for years properly dating documents, with previous experience at a bank.

“The county took away some fundamental, constitutional rights from Mr. Grayeyes without following the law and Judge Nuffer has set that right,” Boos said. “He (Nielson) has shown that not only is he not trustworthy, but that he was willing to do things that he knew were wrong.”

Navajo Nation leaders have condemned the Grayeyes probe, but county officials say it isn’t related to politics or race. Their report found that neighbors and his sister told a sheriff’s deputy he lives primarily in Tuba City, Arizona, and he gave conflicting statements.

Grayeyes says he’s lived and been registered to vote in San Juan County for decades. They argue he was targeted because new, court-ordered voting districts could help more Navajos get elected.

Boos said this case is the latest example of discrimination against Navajos in the county. Boos said it didn’t help that Grayeyes serves on the board of Utah Diné Bikéyah, a group that supported the creation of the Bears Ears National Monument to protect land that tribes consider sacred and is home to ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

The creation of the monument by President Barack Obama in 2016 was fiercely opposed by Republican leaders in San Juan County and statewide. President Donald Trump ordered the monument downsized last year.

Black, the woman who lodged the complaint, was a candidate for the same commission seat as Grayeyes but lost at the county GOP convention in April to Kelly Laws, a former city councilman in the county’s largest town of Blanding. His father, Kendall Laws, is the county attorney.

Kendall Laws and Black were both sued by Grayeyes in this lawsuit, but were dismissed from the case.

The Alliance for a Better Utah, a left-leaning government watchdog group, has called for an independent investigation of San Juan County, calling the county’s actions “prime examples of racism at work.”

Justin Lee, Utah’s Director of Elections, said they plan to review Judge Nuffer’s order to determine if the actions by Nielson and the county warrant an investigation by the state attorney general.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby handed down new districts after he decided the county was racially gerrymandered, and the districts were drawn to minimize the voices of Navajo voters, who make up half the electorate. Similar legal clashes have been waged over Native American voting rights in several states.

County leaders are challenging the new districts they say unfairly carve up the county’s largest city of Blanding, about 300 miles (482 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.

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