New Mexico Looks To Navajo For Guidance - Foxwoods' Struggle To Survive
New Mexico Gets Guidance From Navajo EPA On Uranium Legacy
By Kathy Helms
GALLUP – It isn't often that the state of New Mexico looks to the Navajo Nation for advice, but when dealing with the Cold War uranium legacy, nobody knows the issues better than Navajo.
The Uranium Policy Subcommittee of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee and the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee met Monday at Red Rock State Park in Gallup and Tuesday in Grants to discuss the impact of New Mexico's uranium legacy and how the state could address the issues.
New Mexico is developing its own five-year cleanup plan similar to the one mandated for the Navajo Nation in 2007 by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif,, and the former Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The New Mexico Environment Department is working closely with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 and hopes to have a draft ready by the end of the year.
Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of Navajo EPA, was asked to report on the progress of the five-year plan and also to tell the committee what he thinks might have been done differently. Etsitty said the plan is actually the culmination of about 25 years of work.
“We were in front of Congress in 1993 raising these issues before a subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, so it's taken quite a bit of effort to martial attention and to lobby for support so that we can continue to receive the resources necessary to push toward the proper characterization and identification of the risks and begin devising a cleanup plan.”
While Navajo has benefited from the five-year plan and met with Waxman again in June, Etsitty said, “There is still a major portion of the resources that we had requested on Oct. 23, 2007, that have not come through.” Navajo had asked for $500 million to deal with land contamination and health impacts.
The agency has received some increase in its grants and now has one intergovernmental person from U.S. EPA helping out in Window Rock, he said, but, “We are seriously still in need of more resources to do this work.”
Community involvement and ensuring that sometimes highly technical information is translated down to the hogan level is also an issue. Additionally, “I know there are a growing number of community groups and grassroots organizations forming along these issues, and I think they deserve and will want to have a seat at the table,” he said.
Cleanup efforts are now beginning in the Eastern Agency Uranium Mining District of McKinley and San Juan counties and Etsitty said there is a lot of work to be done.
“One of the first activities that EPA decided they were going to work with us on was to eliminate the risk of people that have unknowingly brought in contaminants to their homes. We have a number of Navajo families that used mine waste collected from or very near to mines.
“Whether they were producing mines or whether they were exploratory mines, these waste piles were still left unattended and some folks used these materials in the mixing of their cement or the construction of their homes in leveling out the areas where they were going to build,” he said.
“The goal is basically to eliminate or substantially reduce the exposures that these people may have from radiation.” EPA committed to assessing 100 homes a year. In the first year 130 homes were assessed, 27 of which needed remediation.
Rep. Patricia A. Lundstrom (D) of Gallup, co-chair of the subcommittee, asked how the five-year plan addressed groundwater cleanup.
“My concern has always been when you look at these maps and you see everything within the Grants Mining Belt or the San Juan Basin, we're basically dealing with the same aquifer regardless of what the surface boundaries are. What does this plan do in terms of cleaning up these contaminated water sites?”
Etsitty said that while groundwater issues are on the table, the cleanup plan is primarily for surface and subsurface soils and that groundwater issues remain to be determined.
“I guess for me that's the fly in the ointment and the 800 pound gorilla, so to speak,” Lundstrom said. “Groundwater issues affect Navajo and affect everybody else outside of the Navajo boundary. We don't know what the level is. ... It's all one system under the ground regardless of what the surface boundaries are.”
She recommended the committee work with Navajo EPA and that U.S. EPA Regions 9 and 6 come together and at some point undertake a critical review of the contaminated water.
Etsitty told the committee there is one thing in the plan he would change. “I would place more emphasis on really initiating the human health component of the response. We've done a lot of work looking at engineering, soils, old mining plans, some of our water issues, but these have all been in the engineering and geotechnical arena,” he said.
“We've identified that some people have been living too long with high levels of exposure from these sites, but we haven't acted quickly enough to get into the home and to the people that have been living with these exposures and getting them the help that they need.”
Rep. John Heaton (D) of Carlsbad, vice chairman of the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, said, “So you're suggesting that direct exposure should be not only identified in the beginning of the plan but also directly remediated at the same time they're identified. It's unconscionable, I suppose, to identify a problem and then not try to solve it, and then subsequently look at the geotechnical and other issues that may be more complicated.”
Lundstrom disagreed. “I guess for me the legacy damage is comparable to winning the war by treating the wounded. ... I think it's systemic and it needs to be the whole system as opposed to focusing on the highest risk issues. I think it's all resources and it all has equal value.”
Heaton begged to differ. “I think it's about humans and how they are impacted and I think that high consequence and high-risk issues should be dealt with first. Obviously groundwater has a long-term consequence, but I don't think that you sacrifice all of the folks that right now would be impacted by exposures and let them go by the wayside for maybe cleaning up groundwater for 300 years from now.
“I think you've got to take care of the exposure to people immediately if you can, and I'm not sure I would equate it to a battlefield scene.”
Lundstrom told him, “That's because, senator, you don't live here. I think that's the difference. When you actually live in an area and you actually deal with it day to day, it's a little different.”
Lynda Lovejoy, D-Crownpoint, co-chair of the subcommittee, welcomed Lundstrom's and Heaton's exchange “because the public and the folks that are sitting here, it's important for them to know that just because we're a sitting committee doesn't mean we agree on everything. We agree to disagree.”
Foxwoods Seeks 'Mutually Beneficial Solution' To Debt Issues
Posted by: admin in Indian gaming, Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribal Nation
The Buffalo Post
The country’s largest Native-owned casino is backing away from early reports suggesting lenders may go unpaid as it works to restructure at least $1.45 billion in debt, according to this Bloomberg report.
“Like any other restructuring, the tribe is looking at all its options and there’s no plan at this time,” a spokesman for the Mashantucket Western Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut tells Bloomberg. “Through the process, the tribe will be pursuing a mutually beneficial resolution with its banks and bondholders. We’ve always had a favorable relationship with our lenders and we look forward to working with them on a solution that works for all.”
Like casinos around the country, Foxwoods is seeing a drop in revenues because of the recession. The problems at Foxwoods – which, except for Atlantic City, once had northeastern gaming all to itself – are exacerbated by recent competition from other tribal casinos and slot casinos in nearby states.
Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s both cut their ratings for the tribe this week.
Foxwoods is the country’s largest casino by size, with three hotels and six casinos. Just before the recession, it opened a new MGM Grand hotel.
“They borrowed a fair amount of capital to build the MGM Grand and the MGM Grand didn’t come close to what they were hoping for in returns on investment,” Dennis Farrell, a Wells Fargo Securities debt analyst tells Bloomberg. “With the weakness in the overall market when they have amortizing debt coming due, they need to handle that and they’re obviously going to have a difficult time.”
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