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San Juan River

Drill into subregion of san juan river:

The San Juan River region is a coal mining region located in the Four Corners portion of New Mexico.  Coal from this region is sold to power plants in Arizona and New Mexico.

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Environmental groups file suit against Navajo Mine

May 16, 2012

Environmentalists are suing the federal government over approval of a permit to expand a coal mine in northwestern New Mexico. The lawsuit challenges the Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) approval of a 714-acre expansion at BHP Billiton’s Navajo Coal Mine and its claim the mine hasn’t caused health and environmental impacts.

The Western Environmental Law Center filed the suit in federal court in Colorado on Tuesday, May 15. Environmentalists contend the agency failed to consider indirect and cumulative impacts from mercury and other pollutants coming from the plant’s combustion and the disposal of coal ash waste. OSM said it has followed the permitting process to the letter.


BHP Navajo Coal Company Fatality Report

March 29, 2012

A lack of proper training and safety preparation led to the death of a administrative technician working for BHP Navajo Coal Company, according to an investigation report by the Mining Health and Safety Administration.

On July 21, 2011, at approximately 9:05 p.m., Jeri L. Etsitty, 37, was killed when struck from behind by a pickup truck. Etsitty and a co-worker were walking on the mine access road for exercise, a regular practice by employees. Etsitty had over four years of mining experience.

The Navajo Mine is a large surface mine, located 16 miles southwest of Fruitland, New Mexico, and is operated by BHP Navajo Coal Company, a subsidiary of BHP Billiton located in Melbourne, Australia.

MSHA points to the absence of “pedestrians using the mine access road” in the Mine’s Safety program as a contributing factor to the accident. The investigators also found training programs did not address the hazard of pedestrians on the access road. MSHA adds,

“A prior incident on the access road alerted mine management that a written standard or procedure did not exist in the Mine’s Safety Program or training programs concerning pedestrians being present on the mine access road. Mine management failed to revise the Mine’s Safety Program and training programs. These deficiencies contributed to the accident.”

Read the preliminary report at http://www.msha.gov/FATALS/2011/2011C11prelim.pdf and the final report at http://www.msha.gov/FATALS/2011/FTL11c11.asp

Show Us the Money: GAO Request for Mining Revenues

September 23, 2011

Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) have requested the General Accounting Office release financial statistics about mining on Federal land, arguing that the information is crucial as Congress works on the budget and contemplates opening up new areas in the West for mining.

Rep. Grijalva says we already know that hard-rock mining, including uranium, pays no federal royalties. “How much has the taxpayer lost? How much is this land really worth? And what should be the parameters in the future in order to collect a fair return for the American taxpayer?”

Read article at http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/22325-1. Read the letter at http://grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=13&parentid=5&sectiontree=5,13&itemid=1097

San Juan Mine fire may be extinguished

September 13, 2011

A fire that broke out three days ago in BHP Billiton’s San Juan Mine appears to have been extinguished. The San Juan Mine, near Farmington, NM in the Four Corners region, first reported the fire Friday morning just before lunch. Two miners were treated for smoke inhalation and released. Using bore holes the mine operators were able to starve the fire of oxygen, and by monitoring temperatures and gas content, they declared the fire likely dead.

BHP Billiton emphasizes that no miners will be allowed back into the mine until its experts and the Mining Safety and Health Administration declares the mine safe, and there will be a full investigation to the cause of the fire once the mine reopens. The fire is the latest problem for a mine whose safety record is far from stellar; MSHA assessed 30 violations in August alone.

Read article at http://www.fireengineering.com/news/2011/09/1499356463/san-juan-mine-fire-may-be-extinguished.html

Environmental review of Navajo mine moves forward

August 29, 2011

An appeals court has agreed that the permit for Area IV North of the Navajo Coal Mine must be reassessed to determine the mine expansion’s impacts on the environment and cultural artefacts. The mine permit, reissued in 2004 and revised in 2005, had been challenged by the San Juan Citizens Alliance and Dine Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, saying that both had been done without several parts of the necessary legal review, including evaluating the environmental impacts of disposing of the coal ash from neighboring power plants back into the mine as fill.

In October, 2010, a district court judge agreed, voided the 2005 permit, and ordered further study, stopping the mining of Area IV North until the review was completed. The appeals court ruling upholds this ruling. In the meantime, a new permit has been requested and required public hearings have been held, though it is unclear when the new permit will issue.

Read article at http://www.chron.com/news/article/Environmental-review-of-Navajo-mine-moves-forward-2146516.php

EPA to coal-fired plant: Clean up

$750M in pollution controls ordered for station in New Mexico
August 5, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that the San Juan Generating Station must reduce the amount of pollution it produces to reduce the haze in the Four Corners region. The retrofit is expected to cost $750M. The level of pollution controls that will be required is consistent with the preliminary ruling issued by the EPA in December, but the utility now has five years to complete the upgrades instead of three. The owner of the plant has said they will appeal the decision.

“We feel like the decision is a very important one for the people of the Four Corners region,” said Mike Eisenfeld, from the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “I think it’s a clear affirmation of the importance of the Clean Air Act and the steps needed to address the dirty legacies of coal plants.”

Read article at http://durangoherald.com/article/20110806/NEWS01/708069959/-1/s

Groups sue over coal impact on San Juan River

February 1, 2011

A collection of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit against the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) alleging that the federal government has failed to protect the San Juan River region from coal mining and the disposal of coal combustion waste.

The coalition, made up of the Center for Biological Diversity, Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment and the San Juan Citizens Alliance alleges that OSMRE did not follow proper procedures in renewing the operating permit for the Navajo Coal Mine because they didn’t properly consult with the US Fish and Wildlife service about potential impacts the mining would have on threatened and endangered populations in the area.

Read article at http://wvgazette.com/ap/ApTopStories/201102010999

Chevron leaving U.S. coal industry

January 29, 2011

Chevron Corporation, has announced that it is divesting of all of its coal mining interests, stating that it fears that new technologies for burning coal in a clean fashion are just too far off to justify staying in coal. Chevron is seeking a buyer for its Kemmerer Mine in Wyoming and is close to selling its North River underground mine to Florida-based Walter Energy. Plans are less certain for the currently idle McKinley Mine in New Mexico, although the company is exploring selling the reclaimed land.

Read article at http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CHEVRON_COAL and http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chevron-leaving-us-coal-industry-2011-01-29

Navajo Mine plans for changes

December 12, 2010

Big changes at the Four Corners Power Plant outside Farmington, NM will bring significant changes to the Navajo Mine that supplies it with coal. The Arizona Public Service Company (APS) announced last month that it will shut down the oldest three of five boilers at Four Corners and install significant new pollution control measures in the remaining two. But those two are projected to remain in use until 2041.

Four Corners consumes about 30% of all coal mined by Navajo, so mine production is expected to decrease. However, the bigger concern is where the coal will come from. Broken down into four major areas, area I and II are essentially exhausted, and a federal judge recently remanded the permit for area IV because he ruled that the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement failed to follow the law when issuing the permit last year.

Read article at http://www.daily-times.com/ci_16844113

Which has a bigger footprint, a coal plant or a solar farm?

November 17, 2010

It is often commented that renewable energy solutions such as solar or wind farms are diffuse energy solutions that occupy much larger swaths of land than non-renewable resources like coal-fired power plants. Clearly the land used by a coal-fired power plant itself is relatively small. But an analysis that includes the size of the mines providing the coal for those plants shows that the land-use impacts of renewable energy may be quite a bit less than for coal-based power.

Read article at http://www.grist.org/article/2010-11-17-which-has-bigger-footprint-coal-plant-or-solar-farm

Bonding Adequacy Oversight Report – Western Region – Dept of Interior – 2010

State by state survey of practices for bonding coal mines. Published July 8, 2010


Navajo Coal and Air Quality in Shiprock, New Mexico, 2006

Flyer documenting effects of commercial and residential burning of coal in the Navajo Nation.


Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement – 2010

Proposed agreement between the Navajo and Hopi nations and Navajo Generating Station (NGS) to settle water rights for the Little Colorado River System, the Lower Colorado River in Arizona, and the underlying Navajo Aquifer. In part, the proposed settlement secures NGS water for as long as it operates and indemnifies in perpetuity NGS from ground water pollution claims.

Biological Opinion (draft) of effects of Desert Rock Energy on Federally Listed Species and Their Habitats (2009)

Draft Biological Opinion issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to determine effects of the proposed Desert Rock Energy Project (DREP) on federally listed (endangered) species and their habitat. Finds that some species will be adversely affected by heavy metal discharges from the plant (specifically selenium and mercury).


Consumptive Uses and Losses: Provisional Estimate Arizona Portion of the Upper Colorado River Basin Calendar Year, 2007

An analysis of water use and loss for the Arizona portion of the Upper Colorado River Basin for the year 2007. US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. Published February 2009.


Navajo Mine, Endangered Species Act, Notice of Intent to Sue, 2010

Sixty day “notice of intent to sue” for violations of the endangered species act resulting from the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) granting permit NM-0003F which allows for coal mining at the Navajo Mine. The notice claims that discharges resulting from the permit will harm seven different species, and did not properly consult with Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) to determine the effects of the mining on these species. Filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Diné CARE and San Juan Citizens Alliance.