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Letters: Legislation would help compensate for plant shutdown

Letters: Legislation would help compensate for plant shutdown

For all of us who live in the Four Corners area, job security and future economic development are top-of-mind. While we fight for the jobs at the San Juan Generating Station, we must work hard to protect families now — and the future we want for our children — should the plant shut down.

I know that families are worrying right now about what the future holds. That’s why I’ve sponsored legislation to help protect workers, their families, and our community: House Bill 498, Abandoned Utility Facilities and Funds.

To be clear, HB 498 does not require or incentivize or encourage the plant to shut down — it simply requires protection for our workers and communities in the event that it does.

As you may know, I worked in the mines for decades, and I have many friends and family members working in both the mines and power plant today. I understand very well what would happen to miners’ families if the plant shuts down.

My legislation has four simple principles. First, there must be financial assistance to workers and families affected by a shutdown. Second, there must be resources available for economic development for San Juan County, the City of Farmington, the Navajo Nation and other affected jurisdictions. Third, at least 450 megawatts of replacement power must be sited in the Central Consolidated School District, in order to protect jobs and property taxes that fund our schools. And fourth, there must be a preference for this replacement power generation to hire New Mexico workers, rather than bringing in out-of-state workers.

A diverse group of supporters have endorsed these ideas, from the labor union that represents mine workers here, to local chambers of commerce. Thankfully, there seems to be agreement that San Juan workers have provided energy to New Mexico for decades, and the state, in turn, has a responsibility to help out our families, if the plant should close.

No matter what happens, I will not stop fighting for real solutions for our families.

Rep. Anthony Allison
Fruitland, N.M.

How can I help my father get utilities?

Hello! I am Philbert Begay from Jeddito, Arizona. I am Tábąąhá, born for Tábąąhá Naasht’ézhi dine’é. My maternal grandfathers are Táchii’nii Nát’oh dine’é and my paternal grandfathers are Mą’ii deeshgiizhinii.

I have been bothered by the way my father has been treated over the last few years. I don’t know if this letter will help any or make things worse than they already are, but it is worth a try. Maybe it can help others in the same situation and we can collaborate to make a change.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority states on their official website that they promote “to improve the health and welfare of the residents of the Navajo Nation while raising the standard of life.”

My father, a retired Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee for over 30-plus years, has been trying to get basic necessities for the past three years. We have been trying to get assistance for him to get running water, electricity and gas up and running, but they want to charge us an outrageous price just to get started on it. Has anyone else dealt with this nonsense?

My father needs these basic necessities in order for him to stay in good health. Over the 30-plus years he has worked hard for BNSF from working labor (not easy) to a machine operator. Within the last few years he has been diagnosed with diabetes, arthritis, gout and sleep apnea. Sometimes he can’t do much so he stays indoors to not suffer from the cold during this winter season. We have bought him kerosene heaters to stay warm, but it only helps so much. He has to go to relatives’ homes to shower and haul water, not only for himself, but his livestock that he dearly loves as well.

All my father has ever wanted was to move back to the Navajo Nation to live. I am sure he was raised with no water, electricity and gas growing up and does not have a problem with it, but this is 2019, not the 1900s.

NTUA should not take advantage of my father in this way. Just because he has worked all his life, he shouldn’t be charged an absurd amount of money to get things started. I know and networked with a lot of people around the Navajo Nation that barely got charged anything, or nothing at all, to have these same necessities. What is so different in my father’s case? Is he not a relative of someone that works at NTUA? Does he need to be?

I am just trying to understand what hoops I need to jump through to get some results for my father. I am currently on my 8th combat deployment to Afghanistan and every time I call home to talk to family this is always a discussion that comes up. I think he is frustrated with the way NTUA operates. I know I am, and I haven’t even moved back yet.

I appreciate everyone in advance for any kind of feedback, good or bad. Have a blessed day.

Philbert Begay
U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

Little should take his talents elsewhere

In the Navajo Times article, “Former election director says he was unfairly fired” (Feb. 21) by Bill Donovan, he reports that the Navajo Election Administration’s former director, Edbert Little, and his lawyer filed a lawsuit with the Office of Hearings and Appeals against his former company.

This lawsuit has come after a bill the Navajo Nation Council passed which allows employers to terminate the employment of any employee with little to no reason. Little is one of several directors who were let go from their positions following the bill’s passage.

Little’s attorney, Barry Klopfer, states that, “A tribal employee is unlawfully discriminated against when a distinction is made arbitrarily or without sound basis and to his detriment.” He is saying that Little is facing discrimination that is based on randomness and is causing harm towards his client. The way Klopfer is using the word “discrimination” is suggesting that Little was fired based along the lines of race and gender and not based on his work or likeness.

Reasons for his termination come out as “vague” but he was supposedly fired due to failure to purchase equipment, unable to pay for ballots and the conditions of the ballots used in the 2018 Navajo Nation General Election. There were questions on the ballots, which confused many voters rendering them to leave the questions blank and therefore voiding said ballots.

I agree with Little and his attorney to an extent that the reasons that the chairman of the election board allowed for his termination is not ethical.

According to Melvin Harrison, chairman of the election board, Little had no authorization to purchase equipment for his office.

The second reason has been a problem for the Navajo Nation as it is stated that for the past 10 elections, there was the issue of the Council not approving the Navajo Election Administration’s funding in time.

The final reason I feel is the fault of voters who did not know what was being asked of them. This shows that in the next election, and the ones after, voters must do more research of what is being asked on the ballots. Little’s office also needs to explain to the public of the nature of complicated questions.

I think that Little should also drop the case because the recently passed bill insures that employers can fire any employee with or without reason. He should take the former position in stride and take his skills and experiences to a workplace that would appreciate his work.

Jacob Muskett
Navajo, N.M.

Rules should be in place for social media

In the Navajo Times article titled, “Delegate says person he sexted with is blackmailing him” (Feb. 16) by Donovan Quintero, Navajo Delegate Pernell Halona is being accused of and admits to sexting with a woman on social media. The woman befriended him and talked him into making a sexually explicit video.

Halona tried to tell the press and the people of the Navajo Nation that wouldn’t believe him and also he asked to apologize for his actions that he had done on social media.

Delegate Pernell Halona had gotten a friend request from a woman that he had been talking with to the point where they felt comfortable with each other video chatting. At the time of the friend request Halona had thought, “She seemed very nice. I know now that I should have used better judgment.”

Apparently, he has used better judgment in the past with other women based on what he said in the article. Later on, Halona wrote that he should’ve stopped the video chat when the woman sent an explicit video but Halona’s “curiosity got the best” of him.

According to this article, this behavior isn’t what we put our delegates and officials in the branches of this Navajo government for. It is sickening. On behalf of the delegate and the woman, and the public, some rules need to be put in place. Some solutions may be taken seriously in the time of any other incidents that have happened to the people or the officials in office. Blackmailing or not, this shouldn’t happen for anyone’s sake.

The people depend on our Navajo Nation government to push forward and not have problems and situations like this happen in our tribe and community. Being a role model for younger generations is a privilege.

Terrell M. Davis
Chinle, Ariz.

NTEC should focus on clean energy

In the article, “Attorney: NTEC still studying possible NGS takeover” (Feb. 21) by Arlyssa Becenti, she writes about the feasibility of the Navajo Transitional Energy Company purchasing the Navajo Generating Station.

Focusing on the discussion of the benefits of acquisition, Navajo Nation Council delegates listened to and deliberated the industrial and professional prospects encompassing this tribal issue.

I agree that the purchase of the Navajo Generating Station by NTEC is significant to the Navajo Nation’s economy. For the sake of a healthy future for the Navajo Nation, employment and industry must be addressed by our elected officials and directed back toward the Diné.

Considering all the aspects of the acquisition, I believe NTEC should pursue projects which invest in alternative energy as opposed to the continuance of fossil fuel burning.

If NTEC were to acquire NGS, “…then they will assume all current and future liabilities associated with the facility and eventual decommissioning…” I feel that investing in an eventual decommission is illogical plus polluted air, land, and water is neither spiritually moral nor the desire of the Diné.

I feel that NTEC should pursue alternative energy, and so does Delegate Raymond Smith: “…I keep hearing about this ‘green energy.’”

I think the most direct way to start a shift towards alternative energy is to form a commission board within NTEC itself that focuses on potential alternative energies, providers and contractors who can operate on public levels. With the goal of alternative energy, NTEC will develop its capacity to power utilities with respect to environmental impact.

More importantly, the installation and maintenance of such systems will breed students, technicians, technologists and engineers.

Jerrod Begaye
Tsaile, Ariz.
(Hometown: Shiprock, N.M.)

Gas leaks should be taken seriously

In the Navajo Times article titled, “Community member: CCSD bungled gas leak response” (Feb. 21) by Cindy Yurth, she reports that a community member of Shiprock stated Central Consolidated School District responded to a gas leak inappropriately on Jan. 8.

He was told that three school employees smelled natural gas that morning inside the building and around the kitchen area. The safety coordinator was informed of this report. He determined that the pilot light had gone off over the winter break and re-lit the light without any evacuation.

The community member states, “The incident happened during an in-service day, so there were no children present, but teachers and other employees were in school,” which is aggravating because this incident was mishandled by the maintenance.

What if this incident occurred during school session? This situation should have been handled appropriately because gas leaks are flammable which could cause a fire or explosion.

Another reason it should have been handled properly is gas leaks release carbon monoxide into the air reducing less oxygen and inhaling this substance could potentially kill you.

Furthermore, after the community member complained about the gas leaks, he learned that another similar incident happened last November at Ojo Amarillo Elementary School. When this incident occurred, several people complained they felt sick. With these two incidents, the school should have an action plan in case another incident occurs again with gas leaks. Gas leaks that occur in school could be handled professionally because there could be children in school or school employees.

Walter Hudson from NOSHA states the school has submitted a corrective plan and an emergency action plan. He recommends that they take training either from them or state agency, which is a good act to take, so if this incident occurs again they will be professional about it and do proper evacuation and evaluation.

Morales Jones
Tsaile, Ariz.
(Hometown: Chinle, Ariz.)

Council focused more on money than people

In a letter to the Navajo Times titled, “Coal mining: our way or their way?” (Feb. 21) by Percy Byron Anderson Manuelito, he describes the Navajo Nation Council pursuing the Western philosophy of money over matter; for example, them knowing Diné (the people) along with their livestock living on precious land, consists of tons of valuable fuel sources beneath the surface.

Manuelito debates that the Navajo Nation Council is determined of their personal gain and not the Nation’s progress. He also states terrible situations that revolve around the health effects toward the vegetation, animals and people. The Council notices the problems but it does not faze their decision-making.

Manuelito overlooks what I consider an important point about “the true nature of ‘colonization,’ a Western philosophy that has embedded itself, having said that the Navajo Nation Council continually craves the currency rather than social health. This relates not to the whole entire Nation but there are a few places that have this same problem.

Specifically, this pursuing of mining is pertaining to the Black Mesa and surrounding areas. Those that are aware and are affected by these current situations are living in the past, the same horrific conditions of our ancestors.

The Diné Nation is like the U.S. government wanting the land just for the environmental profit. Today, the Diné suffer with the contamination of water and health problems due to resource extraction. The Navajo Nation Council is selfish. While a local chapter meeting was held, Manuelito voted no to the continuation of mining and to the Council’s thought of purchasing a generating station.

The Navajo Nation Council controlling the lives of its people by not considering their opinions is unjust. We all know that the money that the Council profits is not properly used in most cases.

If making money is a true goal of the Council, they should consider progressing the nation with more healthy businesses. For example, a random family would spend their income out in town instead of their local grocery stores.

I think it is time to take their minds from the money and focus on the next generations to come.

Whyley Yazzie
Round Rock, Ariz.

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