October 1, 2009
Contacts: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512-289-8618
Environmental Groups, Southwest Tribes Stand Together to Promote Clean, Renewable Energy
Flagstaff, Arizona -- As Hopi and Navajo leaders in the American Southwest evaluate their energy policies, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups remain committed to working with their tribal partners to find clean energy solutions that work for everyone.
"We are proud of our longstanding partnerships with tribal leaders in the Southwest, and we are committed to supporting efforts to transition from dirty coal to clean energy solutions," said Sierra Club President Allison Chin. "Together, we can rekindle our economy, reduce greenhouse gases and support people who have been left in the dust by a dangerous and dirty, coal-based economy."
For decades, Southwestern tribes have suffered from poisoned groundwater, air pollution, and sacred land destruction caused by coal mines and power plants. But the Navajo Nation’s recent unanimous green jobs resolution and the solar power projects in the Hopi village of Hotevilla are strong signs that clean energy solutions are gaining momentum. Dirty coal pollution also threatens nearby Grand Canyon National Park, a treasure for all Americans.
"We, the Hopi/Tewa people, have worked closely for many years with our allies from the environmental community to protect sacred lands from development and to stop uranium mining from poisoning our water," said Alph H. Secakuku, Sipaulovi Council Representative for the Village of Sipaulovi, Second Mesa, Arizona, Hopiland. "We will continue to work together—tribal communities and other clean energy jobs advocates—to bring green economic development to our lands that respects our air and water."
A report soon to be released by Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS) shows in stark detail how a combination of renewable energy development deployed with aggressive energy efficiency measures provides far more, long term, sustainable job creation, along with overall economic benefits, than traditional sources such as coal.
"Black Mesa Water Coalition appreciates the non-native individuals and environmental organizations that have supported our leadership as a Navajo grassroots organization," said Black Mesa Water Coalition Co-director Enei Begaye. "Native grassroots people are and should be in the lead on these issues in and around tribal lands."
"We were quite amazed," said report author Paul Sheldon, Senior Economist of NCS. "In some cases the models show ten times the number of jobs created from certain solar technologies verses coal-based generation." Sheldon said the lands of the Southwest hold some of the country's greatest solar and wind potential, resources that will still be there centuries after the last ounce of coal has been mined and burned.
To address climate change and to support communities, Southwest tribes and environmental groups have worked in partnership for years to promote clean energy, health and water issues by cleaning up dirty coal plants and promoting solar and wind projects on the reservations.
"NRDC is proud to have longstanding relationships with Tribal Nations across the country," said Phil Gutis, communications director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We are committed to continuing our work with Tribal Nations, including local Navajo allies, to find productive, clean and sustainable economic development opportunities that power and protect their communities."
"It is truly heartening to see that the indigenous grassroots organizations have become highly proficient in working with their governments from the local to the central levels," said Tony Skrelunas, Native America program director for Grand Canyon Trust and former Navajo Nation executive. "This is something that should be welcomed by all Navajo and Hopi communities since many members of these organizations will be our future leaders."
"Global warming is a threat on and off Navajo and Hopi lands," said Hertha Woody, a member of the Navajo Nation and a Sierra Club volunteer leader in Flagstaff. "There is great potential for solar and wind projects to help reduce the emissions that contribute to global warming, and we are proud to continue to support a transition from coal to clean energy that will create a more sustainable economy."