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'Anything Goes' at Interior Department

Government Watchdog Says Ethics Lacking at Department of Interior

 

By LIZ MARLANTES and TOM SHINE

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2006 - - Earl Devaney, the inspector general of the Department of the Interior, will give a blunt assessment of the level of ethics there in testimony to be presented to a congressional subcommittee Wednesday.

"Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior," Devaney will tell the subcommittee, according to an advance copy of his prepared remarks obtained by ABC News.

Devaney was asked to investigate a controversy that's been brewing on Capitol Hill for months over what critics call a giant giveaway to the major oil companies.

The giveaway, according to the critics, stems from leases issued by the government to oil companies in the late 1990s that exempted them from paying royalties on deepwater drilling, regardless of how much profit they ultimately reaped from that exploration.

The issue has taken on heightened urgency in the wake of the recent discovery of huge new oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico. The federal government could lose more than a billion dollars in royalty payments from this new source alone. Over the long term, the leases could cost the government as much as $20 billion, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office.

Devaney did not find evidence of outright collusion between Interior Department officials and oil companies over the leases in question -- writing that "we do not have a 'smoking gun.'"

Instead, he blames the leases on "bureaucratic bungling," calling it a "very costly mistake which might never have been aired publicly absent The New York Times," and inquiries by Congress. The Times first reported the omission of price thresholds in the leases.

But Devaney's overall indictment of the department's practices is stinging.

"Over the course of this seven-year tenure, I have observed one instance after another when the good work of my office has been dynamically disregarded by the department," he writes in his testimony. "Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials, taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias have been routinely dismissed with a promise 'not to do it again.'"

Devaney says previous reports of his that have chronicled such things as complex efforts to hide the true nature of agreements with outside parties, massive project collapses and bonuses awarded to the very people whose programs had failed were met with "vehement challenges" to the quality of his work.

He also describes high-level officials -- political appointees -- who were forced to leave after investigations into poor judgment or misconduct who were nevertheless sent off "with a party paying tribute to their good service."

It is not a partisan indictment, because the problems Devaney cites occurred under both Democratic and Republican administrations. The controversial leases were issued during the Clinton administration, but Devaney also mentions how disappointed he was when former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, a Bush appointee, failed to take action against one high-level official. Still, he says he is hopeful things may change under new Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

 

Andean congress meets in Cusco

 

Indian Country Today
August 07, 2006
by: Lisa Garrigues / Today correspondent
http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096413435

Photo by Lisa Garrigues -- Representatives from diverse Andean nations attended the opening ceremony at the Incan site of Sacsayhuaman of the First Congress of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations, which met in Cusco, Peru, July 15 - 17.

CUSCO, Peru - In a historic effort to unite the Andean peoples, representatives from indigenous organizations in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Guatemala met in Cusco July 15 - 17 in the first Congress of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations.

The meeting brought together 500 delegates from the Quechua, Kichwa, Aymara, Mapuche and other nations. It was organized by five different indigenous organizations: CONACAMI of Peru, CONAMAQ of Bolivia, ECUARUNARI of Ecuador, ONIC of Colombia and CITEM of the Mapuche Nation of Chile.

The event began with a steep climb through the streets of Cusco to the Incan site of Saqsayhuaman, where spiritual authorities from several nations conducted a despacho, or offering to the Earth.

''We have returned to the house of our grandfathers,'' said one authority. ''This house belongs to all of you.''

Following the ceremony, delegates gathered in the Paraninfo auditorium in Cusco to listen to a variety of speakers, develop strategy on issues affecting indigenous peoples and choose 10 representatives to the coordinating committee, who will hold office for two years.

The harmful effects of multinational companies and free-trade agreements with the United States on Latin American indigenous peoples were emphasized by speakers at the conference.

''The governments are opening up more and more space to the transnationals, giving them a free ticket,'' said elder Lorenzo Muelas Hurtado of the Guambiano people of Colombia. He encouraged the delegates at the conference not to forget ''the vulnerable peoples, the nomads and hunter-gatherers'' who could not be present at the conference.

He specifically mentioned the U'wa people of Colombia, whose philosophy teaches that oil is the blood of the Earth and without its blood the Earth will die. The U'wa have threatened collective suicide if the Colombian government and multinational oil companies, who have a long history of polluting land in indigenous communities, don't start acting more responsibly.

Ecuadorian activist Blanca Chancoso called the free trade agreements with the United States a ''new colonization.'' These agreements open up Latin American markets to North American products and have been criticized as harmful to indigenous communities, which frequently depend on subsistence farming. Other speakers emphasized that indigenous nations are not consulted in free-trade agreements with the United States or in agreements with multinational corporations.

Demonstrations by Ecuador-ian indigenous movements had been instrumental in putting the free trade agreement there ''into a coma,'' Chancoso said.

''We don't want the state to give us a hand,'' she said. ''We want the state to take their hands off us.''

The U.S. Congress began the voting process on a free trade agreement with Peru in late July.

Latin American ''unicultural'' states had failed and excluded indigenous peoples, several speakers said, and were not exercising real democracy. Drawing inspiration from Evo Morales' restructuring of Bolivia, representatives spoke of the construction of ''plurinational'' states and the reconstruction of Tawantinsuyo, or the Incan confederation of four nations which included Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and parts of what are now Argentina and Colombia. The conference was punctuated by shouts in Quechua of causachu tawantinsuyo! (''May Tawantinsuyo live!'')

The desire to reconstruct Tawantinsuyo should not be a return to the past but a way to draw inspiration from the ''empire without hunger'' that the Incans had, said Peruvian anthropologist Rodrigo Montoya Rojas.

Rodolfo Pocop of the Guatemalan Mayans suggested reviving an economy based on trade. He emphasized the need to ''guarantee our own food'' by strengthening indigenous systems of agricultural management and resisting gene patenting and manipulation by large corporations.

Mapuche Pablo Mariman decried the criminalization of Indian protests in Latin America. Mapuche prisoners recently ended a hunger strike in Chile, and Mapuche activists at the conference told Indian Country Today that they felt Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was still not following through on her promise to create real dialogue with the Mapuche.

Mariman also urged the Quechuans and Aymarans to respect the reconstruction of Mapuche territory, which was not originally a part of Tawantinsuyo. ''We need our differences in order to construct a union,'' he said. Several speakers also spoke of the reconstruction of Abayala, a union of Native nations that would extend from Mexico to Chile.

The congress, which also included an evening of dance from different nations, culminated in presentations by working committees and the selection by consensus of two delegates from the five organizations present to a permanent coordinating committee.

A tense and chaotic moment erupted at the end of the conference, when several different organizations presented their own suggestions for political leader and technical leader of the coordinating committee.

But a consensus was eventually reached: Miguel Palacin Quispe, president of CONAMI, was chosen as political president and Vicente Choqueticlla of CONAMAQ as technical president.

At midnight on the final day of the conference, a small group of attendees offered a bouquet of flowers to the memorial of the resistance fighter Tupac Amaru, who was drawn and quartered by the Spanish conquistadores.

The congress closed the following day with another ceremonial offering to the Earth at the Incan site of Ollantaytambo.

Four years of hard work by indigenous leaders had gone into the formation of this new organization, the first transnational Andean movement since the 1980s, according to Quispe. He predicted the organization would create political clout for South American indigenous peoples, representing them at events like the World Social Forums and organizations like the United Nations.

''This event was not only historic for indigenous peoples, but important on a global level,'' said Temple University political science professor Jose Antonio Lucero. ''The issues discussed here ... the power of multinationals, pollution of the Earth ... these are not just indigenous issues, but issues that affect all of us.''

 

From: First Peoples Human Rights Coalition
firstpeoplesrights@earthlink.net

Indian nations assert their own identity


From the article below:
"It is time not to rewrite history but to set it straight". Six Indian nations from Virginia depart for England, exercising their human right to represent themselves internationally, their human right to the truth of their own identity and existence, and their human right to the integrity of their own culture as distinct members of the family of humankind.

With Trip to England, Virginia Tribes Seek a Place in U.S. History

By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 13, 2006; B01
washingtonpost.com

In the history books, there is the story of Pocahontas, the lovely Indian maiden who became a Christian, married an Englishman in Virginia and sailed away with him to England. Beyond that, there is little mention of the Virginia Indians who greeted the first settlers. It is as if an entire Indian nation that had lived here for thousands of years had simply vanished.

And so it was with a measure of astonishment to some onlookers that the chiefs of Virginia's eight remaining tribes and many of their members gathered yesterday at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington in a "departure ceremony" to bless their trip to England -- the first major delegation to make the trip since that day, centuries ago, when Pocahontas sailed.

"I thought these people were annihilated, that they'd died of smallpox or were moved," said Kimberly Harris, expressing a common sentiment, as she watched a parade of dancers in fringed buckskin, turkey feathers, porcupine headdresses, beaded bolo ties, breastplates of bone and necklaces of cowry shells and seeds. One wore a beaded Miss Chickahominy crown. The dancers stepped rhythmically to the pound of drums and chants as they symbolically spread corn, a welcoming gesture, in their dance. Harris, 50, grew up in the District. Other than the legend of Pocahontas, she had learned little else about local tribes. "To see all these chiefs here in their traditional dress -- to see that these people are still here -- it's thrilling," she said.

Virginia's Native Americans are still here, though in greatly diminished numbers than the 40 tribes that were around in 1607 when settlers established the first permanent English colony at Jamestown. And if awareness of the Virginia Indians is all that comes of this historic trip to England as part of Jamestown's 400th anniversary festivities, to Stephen Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy tribe, the trip will have been a success.

"People like to say that post-mid-17th century, there were no Virginia Indians," Adkins said. "We're going to dispel that notion. We've been kind of the best-kept secret in Virginia for 400 years."

The idea for the trip, as well as its funding, came from the British foundation involved in the Jamestown anniversary planning. Although the English are interested in promoting ties and tourism between Virginia and Kent County, where the Jamestown settlers sailed from, organizer Alex King sees the same opportunity for self-definition that Adkins does. "It's about carving an identity, isn't it," he said. "And presenting themselves to the world in a way that certainly they haven't done for, what, more than 200 years."

The Virginia tribes have been so invisible, Adkins said, that although they were the first tribes the colonists encountered four centuries ago, they have yet to be officially recognized by the federal government -- unlike 562 other tribes, primarily in the West, that are considered sovereign nations. Those tribes are offered federal health, education and housing benefits.

Six of the eight Virginia tribes are lobbying Congress for that federal recognition. Their motto: "First to welcome. Last to be recognized." Indeed, not only were they neglected in history books, but in 1924 a "racial integrity policy" virtually erased Virginia Indians. That policy, born of the eugenics movement, declared that Virginia had two races only, white and black. The policy was not overturned until a 1967 Supreme Court decision.

Adkins has been criticized for agreeing to participate in the trip to England.

"I get asked all the time, mostly by other Indians, 'How can you participate in something that heralded the demise of 90 percent of your people by the end of the century?' " Adkins said yesterday. Many Native American leaders, in Virginia and elsewhere, also encouraged Virginia Indians to boycott all Jamestown 400th anniversary activities to protest their lack of recognition.

As a result of their protest, officials changed the name of the anniversary events from "celebration" to "commemoration." Adkins, who is on the federal commission planning the anniversary, vehemently disagreed. And yesterday's ceremony -- an elaborate news conference really -- was the reason. For the first time since the victors began writing the history books, TV cameras, radio microphones and photographers swarmed around Virginia's Native Americans, capturing their stories and letting all the world know they're still here. "This is a chance to tell the world who we are," Adkins said. It is time, Adkins said, to take the story back from the historians and Hollywood directors who have portrayed his people alternatively as ignorant savages or idyllic dwellers in a simple Garden of Eden. It is time to tell the truth of Chief Wahunsunacock, whom the English called Powhatan, and his daughter Matoaka, who was nicknamed Pocahontas, or "frolicsome child," and say a prayer over her grave at Gravesend, where she died in England at age 22.

It is time to acknowledge that without the Chickahominy and other Virginia tribes, the early settlers at Jamestown would surely have died of starvation.

"We consider Jamestown the cradle of American democracy," said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who, along with Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), attended the ceremony yesterday. "And that cradle was tended to by Virginia Indians."

Allen and Moran are sponsoring federal recognition bills in Congress to, they said, right an old wrong.

"It is time not to rewrite history but to set it straight," Adkins said.

C 2006 The Washington Post Company

 


07/13/06
Please support -


SOLIDARIDAD---PUEBLO GARIFUNA---HONDURAS

To: Ana Maria Garcia Lacayo anamaria.garla@gmail.com
Go To http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Garcia to take action.

Garifuna Community Leader in Honduras Threatened with Death

An Afro-descendent community leader in Honduras, Jessica Garcia, was forced at gunpoint to sign a document surrendering land and rights to a powerful real estate company.

After refusing to accept a bribe to endorse the document, a representative of the company threatened to kill Ms. Garcia, the leader of the San Juan Tela Patronato, which represents the interests of the San Juan Garifuna community, and to murder her children.

This incident is only the most recent in a series of mounting threats and violent attacks faced by the Garifuna community and their leaders over the last several years. Powerful business interests, who seek to benefit from developing Garifuna territory into major tourism projects, engage in intimidation and violence, with virtual impunity.

Following the murder of two Garifuna community members in San Juan earlier this year and violent attacks against the San Juan community by security guards working for the real estate company, Ms. Garcia and other Garifuna leaders are in need of immediate protection.

Urge the government of Honduras to protect the safety of Garifuna rights activists and ensure that those responsible for violent threats and criminal attacks against peaceful community leaders are brought to justice.

Click Here to Take Action:
http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Garcia

More about threats against Garifuna community activists:
http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Garcia/explanation

Elena Steiger
Human Rights Defenders Program
Tel: (212) 845-5298 Fax: (212) 845-5299
www.humanrightsfirst.org

Please act in solidarity with our Garifuna relatives. Thank you - Gracias,

in solidarity / en solidaridad,

Tia Oros Peters
Executive Director
Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development
ph: 707-825-7640 fax: 707-825-7639
www.7genfund.org

 

June 9, 2006

CONTACTS: Anne Rabe (Center for Health, Environment and Justice)
703-237-2249, Lee Dazey (WSDP), 775-324-4027, ldazey@mindspring.com


WESTERN SHOSHONE RECEIVE BOOST IN WORK TO KEEP HOMELAND SAFE FROM FURTHER NUCLEAR CONTAMINATION

During the First National Conference on Precaution, held in Baltimore, June 9th to 11th, the Western Shoshone National Council and affiliated Western Shoshone organizations: the Western Shoshone Defense Project and the Shundahai Network were honored with a "Pioneer of Precaution" award for decades-long opposition to prevent nuclear weapons testing and radioactive waste dumping within homelands, Newe Sogobia. Two Nevada organizations, Citizen Alert and the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, working on nuclear issues were also recipients.

The award is a tremendous boost to collective efforts by the precautionary award winners along with the 40 other indigenous nations, environmental justice, peace and justice, anti-war and nuclear abolition organizations working to halt Divine Strake, a 700-ton explosion of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil would take place in an area of the Nevada Test Site (NTS) on Western Shoshone homeland near to where nuclear testing occurred. Originally Divine Strake was planned for June 2nd, postponed until June 23rd due to a court challenge, postponed again indefinitely, and now seems to be assigned a fall detonation date by projections of members of Nevada's congressional delegation. With the exception of Representative Berkley, Nevada's congresspersons have said they believe the test to be safe; even though the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection has not reached the same conclusion or issued a permit to the DOD.

Because it is estimated the explosion will create a plume extending 10,000 feet in the atmosphere, Western Shoshone, Nevadans and Utahans are rightly concerned about the lack of real soil samples from the Department of Defense to determine whether there is radioactive contamination in the soils surrounding the blast area. The data provided by the Defense Department was gathered primarily with radiation detection machines that give surface readings only.

Western Shoshone have historically been on the front lines of the U.S. nuclear weapon program. According to a survey and study by the Nuclear Risk Management for Native Communities, Western Shoshone bore the brunt of the Cold War nuclear weapon program receiving doses of radiation from 100 aboveground tests estimated to be six times that of other non- Indian downwind populations."

Divine Strake is also a violation of Western Shoshone rights. On March 10th 2006, the Western Shoshone brought their case to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) with the support of the University of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Institute and the Western Shoshone Defense Project. The UNCERD found the U.S. to be in violation of recognized fundamental human rights standards and international law with regard to the Western Shoshone, and ordered the U.S. to "freeze", "desist" and "stop" activities that threaten Western Shoshone lands. On month later, in flagrant denial to its duty as a member nation to UNCERD, the U.S. announced its decision to conduct the Divine Strake explosion.

"The presence of the U.S. military on Western Shoshone land is uninvited," said Western Shoshone grandmother, leader and executive director of the Western Shoshone Defense Project, Carrie Dann. "For years, the Western Shoshone have fought for sovereignty over our ancestral and treaty-recognized lands, as well as for shutting down the Nevada Test Site where 928 nuclear tests were conducted."

Nevada Representative Shelly Berkley and Utah's congressional members have come out firmly and strongly for the protection of those living downwind of the NTS from the re-suspension of radioactive particles in the dust. They have also expressed concern for the implications of this test to U.S. nuclear weapon development and the potential for renewed testing in Nevada. Especially since, Divine Strake was described in the Pentagon's budget as a planning tool "to improve warfighter's confidence in selecting the smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities." After the public began to raise questions about whether the U.S. was designing nuclear "bunker busters", the Pentagon said the test was for conventional weapon purposes only; but critics question Divine Strake's relevance to conventional weaponry. Fifty times the explosive power of the largest conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal, Divine Strake would not be used as a conventional weapon because no plane could carry such a payload.

As Hans Kristensen with the Federation of American Scientists said, "It's not a step toward nuclear testing. It is nuclear testing. It's just nuclear testing the way it's done today, since actual nuclear tests are banned by treaties." As a simulation of a nuclear explosion tied to nuclear weapons work, it represents a reversal of the efforts of previous Administrations towards disarmament and non-proliferation. Despite landmark decisions and treaties in the last forty years in this direction, the Bush Administration in its 2002 Nuclear Posture Review is now paving the way for the development of a whole new generation of nuclear weapons. While funding for nuclear "bunker busters" was not approved, Congress repealed the 1994 ban on them to allow research. Furthermore, the Kyl amendment (4267) to the Defense Authorization Act (S.2766) questions the ongoing relevance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and asks the President to determine whether the U.S. is still bound by its provisions.

History has a way of repeating; but Western Shoshone leaders and worldwide supporters will not be silent. "There is nothing "divine" about a weapon's test," added Carrie Dann. "We decry all weapons of mass destruction as they are first tested upon us: and we oppose the use of these weapons against any other peoples or nations." On May 28th, an action was held at the Nevada Test Site to oppose Divine Strake. Several hundred from indigenous nations, environmental justice, peace and justice, anti-war and nuclear abolition organizations attended; and 40 were arrested. In months to come, many more will be arrested to put America back on track with the resumption of its leadership role in non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons.

 

Indigenous March in Support of Chavez in Venezuela

Indigneous groups marched in Caracas
Indigneous groups marched in Caracas, Venezuela, in support of President Chavez.

Sunday, Jun 11, 2006
By: Michael Fox - www.Venezuelanalysis.com
Credit: Maxim Graubner

Caracas, Venezuela, June 10, 2006-Hundreds of representatives from various indigenous Venezuelan ethnicities marched in Caracas on Wednesday in the "First National March of the Indigenous People." The march was organized by the National Indigenous Council of Venezuela (CONIVE) and was held in support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, against US military operations in Caribbean waters, in support of Venezuela's withdrawal from the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and for the unity of their communities in Venezuela. According to CONIVE, the march was the first of many indigenous mobilizations which will be "heating up the streets" over the next 6 months.

CONIVE was born in 1989 and is composed of 60 organizations and representatives from 32 indigenous ethnic groups including the Warao, Yucpa, Wayuu, Timotes, Panare, Yanomami and Yecuana, among others. "Here we are raising our hands for the first time to say, enough. The indigenous peoples in Venezuela are united, we are united because it's the only way to advance, it's the only road to speak loudly and I believe that that's what we are doing right now," declared CONIVE President and National Assembly representative, Nicia Maldonado at the beginning of the march. "We wanted to express this to the President of the Republic, that the indigenous people are going to give the first shout and [the presidential election] on December 3rd, isn't just any old thing, it is about saving ourselves, about dignity for the indigenous people."The march was also joined by indigenous from Peru and Ecuador.

"The withdrawal from CAN makes us very happy, because, first off, it helps us to protect our traditional knowledge. That space was there to sell off the traditional knowledge and the natural resources, without even consulting the organizations. we also say that we support Chavez' politics in terms of the G-3. We are happy that you have gone, you have to analyze all of the spaces of power, because for us they are tentacles of imperialism," said Maldonado.

"We are also saying to the government of Mr. Bush, take all your military that you have in the Caribbean and get out, because here, we want peace, we want to live, because we are in search of our greatness, our spirituality and the flourishing of our liberty." She said, "we don't want war, we want peace, because the liberation is here in Venezuela. You can't call President Chavez an imperialist, because you are the imperialists and when you speak about President Chavez, you are speaking about the indigenous people."

As the march wound it's way towards the Presidential Palace of Miraflores, it paused at the Attorney General's office, the National Assembly and the Vice-President's office, to deliver three respective documents declaring the unity of Venezuela's indigenous, offering their support to President Chavez, condemning the recent elimination by the supreme court (TSJ) of a constitutional article against the violence against women and calling for increased consultation with all of Venezuela's indigenous.

"We are calling for the construction and the institution of the Organic Law of Political Participation of the Indigenous People which says that they must consult the indigenous people. and ask that they consult all of the people, not just a small part," said Maldonado.

Maldonado further expressed that she believes Venezuela's indigenous can offer 300,000 votes towards Chavez' goal of 10 million in this December's presidential elections.

"What we wanted to express in the documents is that here are the indigenous peoples, and they can count on our support," she said. According to Representative Maldonado, who represents approximately 30,000 indigenous peoples from 25 communities in the southern Venezuelan states of Apure and Amazonia, there are approximately 800,000 indigenous in Venezuela.

Chapter 8 of the 2001 Venezuelan Constitution explicitly protects the rights of Venezuela's indigenous peoples:
"The state recognizes the existence of the indigenous people and communities, their social, political and economic organization, their cultures, uses and customs, languages and religions, as well as their habitat, original rights to the land that their ancestors traditionally occupied and that is necessary for their development and in order to guarantee their way of life." Reads Article 119.

But even with protection under the Constitution, many indigenous participants in the march expressed grave problems. "We are losing our culture. Without culture, we can't live, so we are trying to revive our indigenous culture, so that it is re-born again," said Valerio Hernandez, one of 300 indigenous fishermen, farmers and artisans from the Macuro Delta who traveled to Caracas for the march. "Economics, transportation and health are also difficult, because the doctors don't arrive to where we are. And we don't have the means of communication or transportation. We don't have anything and that's how we have been, well, stepped on. But now we want to shed light on this."

While overwhelmingly supporting President Chavez, CONIVE also lent their support to the indigenous people struggling against the exploration of coal on their "sacred" lands in the state of Zulia, which has become a controversial issue in Venezuela over the last few years.

"For the Yucpa people, that land is sacred," said Maldonado "and the President has said, that if you can't save the land, the coal will stay under ground. I think that's important. We are defending and accompanying our Yucpa brothers. the companies can't just come and kick them off. our president has said that it's a question of dialoging between the people and the government, the coal companies and the international organizations.

We are convinced that through the dialogue with the private companies we will come to a solution, but they need to respect us, and they can't disrespect our sacred sites."

As the sun set on Wednesday evening most of the participants in the march were filing back onto their buses and preparing to head home, but Maldonado expressed that this is just the beginning and that they are planning numerous demonstrations for June, July and beyond.

"Right now we are going to incorporate in to the events. On June 22, we are going to unite the masses with mobilizations in all of the states." Said Maldonado. "After August, everything will be headed towards 10 million [votes]."

Interestingly, just beyond the Vice-President's Office, the road over Llaguno Bridge (the infamous site of the April 11, 2002 events) towards the presidential palace, Miraflores, was blocked by an armored vehicle and several anti-riot police dressed in storm-trooper gear.

An official with another group of armored police blocking a side street stated that it was not the indigenous march but the students that they were prepared for. The official said that the students had "promised violence" and vowed to go to Miraflores.

The Venezuelan daily, Ultimas Noticias, reported on Thursday, that students from the Central Venezuelan University were on the streets last Wednesday, protesting against "the persecution" of University of the Andes student Nixon Moreno, who has been accused of instigating the recent violence in Merida, and for which a Venezuelan court has issued an arrest warrant. No conflicts between the military guards and the students were reported.

 


CONTACTS:
Andy Bessler, Sierra Club-- 928-774-6103
Enei Begaye, IEN - 928-380-6296

May 15, 2006

 

Just Transition Coalition Secures First Step Towards
a Sustainable Economic Future For Navajo and Hopi People

In the wake of the shutdown of the Mohave Generating Station, California energy regulators approved a request by the Just Transition Coalition to track and accumulate revenues from the sales of sulfur credits from Mohave's primary owner, Southern California Edison, for possible future distribution to the tribes once determination of Mohave's future operation is made.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ - On a four to zero vote, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted a motion by the Just Transition Coalition for Southern California Edison Company (SCE), the primary owner of the Mohave Generating Station, to establish an account to track and accumulate revenues from the sale of sulfur credits by SCE arising from the plant's closure on December 31, 2005. Mohave closed due to a court agreement between Mohave's owners and Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust and National Parks Conservation Association over Mohave's Clean Air Act violations. Proposals for how those funds should be disbursed, including the Coalition's Just Transition Plan, will be considered once the plant's ultimate operating status is determined. Last week's action was taken by the CPUC in its decision on SCE's application for a general rate increase for its customers.

"We applaud the CPUC and the California ratepayers for making a decision that is in the best interest of all involved," said Enei Begaye, of Indigenous Environmental Network. "This is a historic step towards supporting both California and the tribes in creating a healthy and clean economy and environment based in renewable energy."

In the CPUC's May 11th decision, any revenues from the sale of sulfur credits by SCE, which could amount to over $20 million a year, will be recorded and accumulated in a SCE regulatory account, as requested by the Just Transition Coalition. Once a final determination on the operating status of Mohave is made, the CPUC will then consider proposals as to how the accumulated funds will be disbursed. Such proposals can include the Coalition's recommendation for distribution of these funds to the Hopi and Navajo tribes as part of a Just Transition from Mohave's closure.

Continued on page

"With uncertain results from tribal negotiations and with this precedent setting decision, this is the time for our tribal leaders to stand with us for the protection of our future," said Wahleah Johns of the Black Mesa Water Coalition.

Since Mohave's closure and the closure of the Black Mesa coal slurry line as well as the Black Mesa coal mine, both Navajo and Hopi Tribal economies have been hit hard due to the loss of revenues from coal and water royalties. The Just Transition plan was developed to help the tribes offset the loss of revenues.

"Establishing this fund for the benefit of the Hopi and Navajo Tribes could help build a self-sufficient economy by providing training opportunities and creating high quality jobs in modern energy technologies," stated Carla Din, Western Regional Director for the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor unions, environmentalists, community-based organizations and businesses.

The first of its kind in the U.S., the Just Transition plan calls for the funds secured from sulfur dioxide allowances of a dirty-coal-fired power plant to be used by Navajo and Hopi tribal communities for sustainable economic development including the production of renewable energy like wind and solar plants on tribal lands. California and the tribes would benefit from the Just Transition Plan since the renewable energy production would help meet California's renewable energy portfolio standards.

The CPUC decision is the first step in preserving a source of revenue that results from Mohave's closure and could be applied in the future to offset the economic hardships suffered by the tribes and provide clean renewable sources of electricity for these communities. The significance of the CPUC's action was underscored by CPUC Commissioner Brown specifically highlighting the creation of this account in his summary of the order at today's CPUC Meeting.

"I refuse to believe that the future of our people lies only in non-renewable energy," said Nicole Horseherder, Co-Director of the Navajo grassroots organization To' Nizhoni Ani. "This decision is proof that we can have a future that is sustainable and is consistent with our traditional ways of life. We can have both at the same time."

"This CPUC decision is the first step towards restoring environmental justice to the Navajo and Hopi people while at the same time building a sustainable economy in renewable energy," said Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club. "We look forward to working with tribal leaders to secure these funds for a Just Transition from a dependence on coal to a bright future in sustainable and renewable energy from the sun and wind."

Sara Steck Myers, attorney for the Coalition at the CPUC, stated that "the Commission deserves great credit for giving full consideration to the Just Transition Motion and resolving this first step in a fair and timely manner."

For more information on the CPUC decision, log onto http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/word_pdf/AGENDA_DECISION/56156.pdf. The Decision discussion on the future disposition of the sulfur dioxide credits from Mohave's closure begins on page 20.

 

Good news from Alaska. (Bristol Bay)
Stevens Defends Pebble Position


From: Scott Brennan scott@reformakmines.org
April 13, 2006

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Stevens defends his stance on Pebble prospect 'RADICAL': Senator's salmon concerns draw ire from "old friends."

http://www.adn.com/front/story/7622748p-7534434c.html
By PAULA DOBBYN Anchorage Daily News Published: April 13, 2006

Sen. Ted Stevens lashed out Wednesday at a national Democratic group that recently dubbed him a "radical environmentalist" for strongly opposing the possibility of a open-pit mine near Lake Clark National Park.

Stevens, who has a long history of supporting development projects in Alaska, said he was offended by the moniker, given him by the Senate Majority Project, a group that targets Senate Republicans.

But the state's senior senator, a Republican, said he will continue to oppose the giant Pebble gold and copper project until convinced it will not harm the area's rich salmon runs.

"If that makes me a turncoat from being an extreme developer, so be it," Stevens told reporters in Anchorage. The Pebble deposit lies in the headwaters of two rivers that feed Bristol Bay, one of the world's biggest producers of wild salmon. A Canadian company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is spending millions of dollars on scientific studies in hopes of turning Pebble into North America's largest gold mine and second-largest copper mine.

The company has hired numerous lobbyists to promote the idea that Pebble could be an economic engine, particularly for Southwest Alaska, hard hit by a downturn in its fishing industry.

But Stevens seems irritated with Northern Dynasty's "overwhelming" lobbying efforts.

"They're hiring people from all over the place to criticize me, to fly back to Washington to talk to everybody about my opposition to this mine," he said.

The lobbyists have met with Stevens too.

"They just laid it on pretty hard. You know, 'You got to do this because we're going to get jobs, et cetera, et cetera.' I said, 'What about the fish?' " Northern Dynasty executives did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Earlier this year, chief operating officer Bruce Jenkins said Stevens is entitled to his opinion and that the company is not asking Alaskans now to support what currently is only a mining prospect. Rather, it would like residents to take a wait-and-see approach and allow the regulatory process to take its course. Stevens' stance on Pebble has surprised many. An ardent champion of developing Alaska, Stevens threatened last fall to resign if senators stripped money away from two huge Alaska bridge projects to give to other states.

But Pebble is different, the senator said. If it was an oil and gas project, he would consider supporting it, but a huge open-pit mine poses too much threat to fish. He cited tailings, or waste rock, as well as mining roads.

Stevens' remarks about Pebble have caused some friction with his usual allies, he said.

"My old friends in the mining industry ... are ready to put a red-hot poker to my throat," he said.

"I'm not going to change and I hope people will listen to us. That resource is an enormous resource not just for the Native people but for the Bristol Bay run and it ought not be tampered with by a gold mine," Stevens said.

Northern Dynasty has not yet determined if Pebble makes financial sense to develop. But recent results from drilling indicated it was an even more gigantic prospect than previously thought, according to the company.

Stevens expressed doubts about Pebble's chances of ever becoming a mine. He said mining industry representatives have told him they considered developing Pebble in the past but decided the cost of complying with environmental regulations made a potential mine too expensive. He declined to name them.

Prior to Northern Dynasty's acquisition of the Pebble claim block, a major mining company called Cominco Inc., now Teck Cominco, explored the region and spent years figuring out whether to build a mine.

Steve Borell, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, said when Cominco considered it a decade ago, metal prices were much lower than today and the extent of the deposit was not as well known, so it's not surprising that they walked away from the project.

"This is an extremely different project than when Cominco had it."

Daily News reporter Paula Dobbyn can be reached at pdobbyn@adn.com or 257-4317.

Scott Brennan, Campaign Director
Alaskans for Responsible Mining

P.O. Box 100286
Anchorage, AK 99510
(P) 907-277-0005, (F) 907-929-1562
scott@reformakmines.org
http://www.reformakmines.org

Alaskans for Responsible Mining (ARM) is a voluntary association of non-governmental organizations working together to raise public awareness of the impacts of the mining industry to Alaska's watersheds, wildlife, fisheries, communities and public health and to reform Alaska's inadequate mining laws.

 

Many of you have heard about the issue of the Klamath River here in northern California, where the Seventh Generation Fund office is located and where local Native peoples live and have relied on the river for a millennia. Here is some good news...

NEWS RELEASE
March 27, 2006
Contacts:
Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice: 206.343.7340 x33
Glen Spain, PCFFA: 541-521-8655
Tim McKay, NEC: 707-822-6918

Victory!

More Water Will Flow In The Klamath For Our Fish

San Francisco, CA - On the eve of a potential salmon fishing closure that would devastate coastal communities and fishing families in California and Oregon, a federal court today ruled that the Bush administration can not continue to strangle water flows in the Klamath River in years with average or below rainfall. The court sided with fishing and conservation groups that have been seeking a more balanced distribution of water needed to rebuild Klamath River salmon stocks. The court ordered the federal Bureau of Reclamation to provide river flows needed for coho salmon now, instead of waiting for five more years to pass.

"This order will help prevent the kinds of closures we're seeing this year and last year and help make the Klamath River a healthier place for salmon," said Glen Spain of PCFFA. "After years of uncertainty, we finally know what needs to be done for water for fish, and farmers and fishermen can plan accordingly." PCFFA is the west coast's largest organization of commercial fishing families.

The court's order, which sets a floor for in-river flows, comes during a high water period on the Klamath. "We stand ready to make any changes as smooth as possible for all our communities," continued Spain.

Salmon advocates have been pointing to the plan's inadequacies since it was released in May 2002. Indeed, as soon as it was implemented and water diversions to upstream farmers began, juvenile salmon died in the river. A severe shortage of adult Klamath River salmon this year is traced directly to the effects of diverting Klamath water to irrigators. This shortage resulted in commercial salmon fishermen losing about 50 percent of their normal fishing season in 2005. In 2003, the court struck down the long-term portion of the plan but ordered no change to current operations.

Because Klamath River coho are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Fisheries Service must approve any irrigation plan devised by the Bureau of Reclamation that relies on taking water from the Klamath River. In May 2002, the Fisheries Service held that the Bureau's plan would jeopardize the continued survival of the Klamath River coho, but failed to require adequate measures to protect the salmon.

Five months after the plan was adopted, in the fall of 2002, low flows caused by unbalanced irrigation deliveries killed as many as 70,000 adult salmon. However months earlier, during the spring of 2002, juvenile salmon died in the river from low water conditions.

"Today a court told the Bush administration to strike a better balance so it doesn't kill all the salmon in the river," said Tim McKay of Northcoast Environmental Center. "This order will help make sure that downstream communities that depend on salmon aren't left high and dry."

"It's time for the federal agencies to stop making excuses and start working to protect salmon in the Klamath River," said Kristen Boyles of Earthjustice. "The Klamath was once the third mightiest salmon-producing river in the continental US, behind only the Columbia and Sacramento. We need to start now to bring it back." The case was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of PCFFA, Institute for

Fisheries Resources, The Wilderness Society, WaterWatch of Oregon, Northcoast Environmental Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Klamath Forest Alliance, and Headwaters. In the district court, these groups were joined by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa) and the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Tribes; amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs were filed by the Cities of Arcata and Eureka, Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties, and the Humboldt Bay, Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

For more information on the Klamath Basin and a copy of the opinion,
please visit www.earthjustice.org.

 

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