About the Navajo Equitable Economy
When the Navajo Genenerating Station coal plant and Kayenta Mine closed in 2019, the #NavajoEquitableEconomy Initiative was launched to present a vision for building an economy rooted in Diné Fundamental Law and traditional values that protect the natural world.
#1: Diné Fundamental Law and virtues infuse our nation’s policies and choices
The healing of our people and lands is necessary for a Just Transition that is in line with Diné Fundamental Law.
Healing after decades of devastation
Navajo communities have borne the brunt of fossil fuel extraction and unsustainable corporate practices that have resulted in the devastation and pollution of our Diné homeland, including the habitats of our plant and animal relatives, and our precious natural resources.
A sacred obligation
The healing of our people and lands is necessary for a Just Transition that is in line with Diné Fundamental Law. Natural Law under the Diné Fundamental Laws, codified by the Navajo Nation Council in 2002, reminds us that, “The Diné have a sacred obligation and duty to respect, preserve, and protect all that was provided, for we were designated as the steward of these relatives.”
Restoring our values
“All creation, from Mother Earth and Father Sky to the animals, those who live in water, those who fly, and plant life, have their own laws, and have rights and freedom to exist.”
The extraction and burning of coal has exposed our families and our plant and animal relatives to toxic pollution and habitat destruction, and has been in direct conflict with the Navajo Nation’s own Fundamental Law. It is time to return to Diné traditional law, to be in harmony with the world, and prioritize energy policies that are line with our values and virtues.
#2: Water is for people, not outside corporate profit.
In the coal era, our water vanished
Decades of coal strip-mining on Black Mesa depleted the N-Aquifer many times faster than its ability to recharge. Navajo Generating Station used tens of thousands of acre-feet of water from the Colorado for power that flowed over our communities’ heads to faraway cities. Many Navajo families remained without running water.
We can begin to right the longstanding wrongs on water
With the closing of Kayenta Mine and Navajo Generating Station, we can begin to right the longstanding wrongs on water. The 50,000 acre-feet of Upper Basin Colorado water for NGS must return to Navajo people. Peabody and the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement must see to the full reclamation of the N-Aquifer.
#3: Projects benefit local communities, and are guided by community voices
As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, there is incredible opportunity for the Navajo Nation in clean energy.
The coal era was inequitable
In the coal era, this extractive industry not only decimated land and water and health, but the economic benefits were not broadly or justly shared.
Power lines built over the communities on Navajo land took electricity to cities across the Southwest, while thousands in the Navajo Nation remained with no electricity access. Until relatively recently, the Navajo Nation was grossly underpaid in the lease of land to NGS owners, by tens of millions of dollars a year for decades. Peabody executives who took care of themselves handsomely through bankruptcy still have done virtually nothing for workers as the coal markets have withered and Kayenta has closed.
A new opportunity in clean energy
As coal markets end and local power plants and mines close, there is incredible opportunity for the Navajo Nation in clean energy — attention and energy must shift to a new era of development done with attention to the voice of local communities informing plans and accountability. After decades of profiting from the use of Navajo natural resources, federal and state government agencies, NGS owners and Peabody Energy all have a responsibility to support the Navajo Nation in the restructuring of its economy.
Navajo Hogan: Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 4.0
Little Colorado River: Al_HikesAZ via Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0
Solar Project: Navajo Tribal Utility Authority