Op-Ed From El Brown Response To: TRIBE TO SPEND $750k FOR CONSULTANTS TO LOOK AT COAL

Elouise Brown, Grassroots Leader
P.O. Box 7838
Newcomb, Navajo Nation
(New Mexico) 87455
(505) 592-1453

thebrownmachine@hotmail.com

October 27, 2012

Dear Editor,

I write this open letter to the Honorable Navajo Nation Speaker, Johnny Naize, in response to Gallup Independent article by Kathy Helms on October 19, 2012, TRIBE TO SPEND $750k FOR CONSULTANTS TO LOOK AT COAL and for all to read.

I write to you as the leader of grassroots opposition to dirty coal, past and present.  There is no such thing as “clean coal,” and you can ask those who live downwind of the Four Corners and San Juan generating stations about that and read the Shiprock Hospital statistics on how those plants harm the elderly and children.  I write to point out the defects in your endorsement of the $750,000 appropriation to push coal research in hopes that you will not attempt the same thing again.

The first thing to note about the appropriation resolution is that its title calls for a “comprehensive investment analysis regarding potential investments by the Navajo Nation” while the budget and justification says the money will be used to “Hire consultants who are mining and economic experts.”  The expenditure does not match the title of the resolution, as is usually required for appropriations.

The budget summary attached to the draft resolution says that you will spend $750,000 for “contractual services, the “program performance criteria” says that the money will “provide funds to hire consultants who are experts in mining,” and the goal statement is to “review and analyze documents and provide report to the NNC.”  If I read that correctly, three quarters of a million dollars will go to your program, which does not necessarily have the authority to hire consultants, with no standards on who the experts will be (other than perhaps knowing something about “mining”), and the value of their work will be assessed by some kind of analysis of their documents.  Who assesses the work?

I may as well say that I am an “expert” on mining by virtue of seeing it all the time, living downwind from dirty power plants and representing the victims of coal, so you should give me the money.  I will give you a report that says that there may be legitimate uses of our coal resource where it will not be used to harm the health of Navajos and any profits will benefit the Navajo people and not a privileged few.

The third point is that there is no proviso for any advertisement of the consulting contract or bid requirement, and I want to know who will get the money.  I suspect, from similar efforts in the past, that it will be either the Dine` Power Authority or perhaps even Frank Maisano, of the Giuliani Law Firm.  I raised a fuss a few years ago about the Dine` Power Authority going for a supplemental appropriation for the same amount of money, and this does look familiar.

Let me understand what you did:   You asked the Navajo Nation Council for a 3/4 of a million dollars in an appropriation where the actual appropriation does not match the title of the resolution; the money will go to you and you have no statutory authority to do studies; there are no standards for the expertise that is sought or even a subject for a consultation report; there are no standards to evaluate the work or expertise in your office to evaluate the work; and the appropriation may be a subterfuge to funnel money to the almost-defunct Dine` Power Authority.

Shame on you, Mister Speaker!  And shame on the Council Delegates who voted for this waste of money.  This appropriation insults and demeans the victims of coal, past and present.  There does need to be public discussion on how to best use the People’s coal resource to put it to best use in the interest of all Navajos, keeping their health and benefit from the resource in mind.

Please reconsider your position on promoting coal.

Sincerely,

Elouise Brown

Chaco Rio, Navajo Nation, NM

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