indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Peabody continues top-level access at Interior
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

An internal investigation released on Tuesday shows that Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles met at least a dozen times with representatives of Peabody Coal, the company at the center of the Navajo Nation's billion-dollar breach of trust and racketeering lawsuits.

The high-profile cases accuse the world's largest coal company of conspiring with top Interior officials to deny the tribe a high royalty rate on its coal assets. The lawsuits are pending in the federal courts and carry a price tag of at least $1.2 billion.

Federal approval of Peabody's mining agreement came during the Reagan administration, when Griles oversaw the office that recommended the tribe receive a 20 percent royalty rate for what has been called one of the most valuable coal deposits in the world. But after a Peabody lobbyist met with then-Interior secretary Don Hodel to protest, a decision in favor of the high rate was suppressed. The tribe, under intense economic pressure, ended up settling for 12 percent.

Nearly two decades after the debacle, Peabody continued to enjoy top-level access to department officials, the report shows. On at least 11 occasions, Griles met with Peabody to discuss the company's coal mines on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, and on at least two occasions, he discussed the company's proposal to build a power plant near a national park.

Griles was never a lobbyist for Peabody, the world's largest coal company. But he did represent the National Mining Association, an industry organization that paid Griles and business partner more than $140,000 in lobbying fees from 1997 to 2000. Peabody belongs to the organization.

The close ties and the media attention they received were enough for Inspector General Earl E. Devaney to review Griles' dealings with Peabody. But since the company was not a client, the report did not draw a conclusion on whether the contacts were appropriate.

For some Navajo leaders, however, Griles' return to the halls he once occupied in the 1980s has been enough to warrant alarm. Tribal leaders were incensed when Griles and Ross Swimmer, who approved the lower-paying Peabody lease as head of the BIA, were appointed by the Bush administration to top positions.

According to the report, Griles defended his meetings with Peabody as a necessary part of the job. The Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the company and other parties have been meeting to determine the future of the Black Mesa mines. Griles has been "coordinating efforts" between the Office of Surface Mining and the BIA, the report stated.

At one point, Griles was deposed by the Navajo Nation as part of its legal actions. Swimmer also testified under oath but failed to recall doing so when asked on a number of occasions.

In a highly-anticipated March 2003 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tribe's breach of trust claim against the federal government. In a 5-4 decision, the justices said the law the tribe cited did not give rise to money damages. The majority found no problem with Peabody's close contacts with top Interior officials.

But last October, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals left an opening for the tribe to pursue the $600 million claim based on other laws. The decision was unanimous.

Separately, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has kept the tribe's lawsuit against Peabody alive despite the company's heated efforts to have it dismissed, or alternatively, delayed. Under federal racketeering laws, the tribe could collect up to three times the damage allegedly suffered.

Peabody denies any wrongdoing in the matter. Company representatives point out that the mines have created hundreds of jobs for Navajo and Hopi tribal members and contribute a significant amount of revenue to each tribal government.

Read the Report:
J. Steven Griles Investigation (March 2004)

Relevant Links:
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Peabody Energy - http://www.peabodyenergy.com

Related Stories:
Court opens window for Navajo Nation trust suit (10/27)
Peabody seeks to dismiss Navajo Nation claim (06/18)
Court appears ready to toss Peabody appeal (04/15)
Supreme Court's trust rulings criticized (4/14)
Navajo Nation back in court over Peabody lease (4/8)
Effects of Supreme Court decision debated (03/07)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)
Supreme Court issues trust decisions (3/4)
Swimmer can't recall Navajo involvement (02/13)
Panel predicts Apache victory (12/4)
Navajo 'deception' gets Supreme Court hearing (12/03)
Peabody sides with Bush administration on trust (09/04)
Legal tactics land Peabody in hot seat (7/22)
Navajo royalty case accepted (6/4)
Don Hodel's Navajo Folly (6/4)
Supreme Court accepts Navajo trust case (6/3)
Navajo royalty case up for review (5/30)
Supreme Court considers 'deception' of trust (5/22)
Action due on Navajo trust case (5/20)
Bush wants Navajo ruling reversed (3/27)
Court rules Navajo Nation owed money (8/14)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Appeals court ruling opens door for tribal jurisdiction over public schools
Cronkite News: Navajo Nation prepares for changes at coal power plant
Steven Newcomb: Federal Indian law comes from a White man's mind
Dakota Access security firm was denied license but kept working anyway
Lawsuits expected after President Trump changes Bears Ears boundary
Voters of Blackfeet Nation reject changes to decades-old constitution
Oneida Nation challenges Oneida Nation over use of 'Oneida' trademarks
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe shifts course on casino land-into-trust bid
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe announces hotel as part of casino expansion
Tribes celebrate as governor in Connecticut signs new casino bill into law
Kickapoo Tribe casino bus crash lawsuits on hold amid insurance dispute
Family from Crow Tribe wins right to pursue lawsuit against federal agent
Mark Trahant: Republican health care reform bill impacts Indian Country
Steve Russell: Republican answer to Obamacare only benefits the wealthy
Hualapai Tribe learns more about citizen who was killed on duty in Vietnam
Zia Pueblo wants symbol removed from flag of city in far-away Wisconsin
Northern Cheyenne Tribe won't touch coal deposit despite economic woes
Life-saving road for Native village inches forward in Alaska and in D.C.
Two more Pueblo tribes challenge state's demand for gaming revenue
Wilton Rancheria won't comment on status of gaming compact talks
Trump administration rolls out first rule under historic trust reform law
Interior Department sends out another $13.1M in Cobell buy-back offers
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs headed to New Mexico for hearing
House committee again leaves out Indian Country in hearing on Interior
Mark Maxey: Oklahoma tries to crush Native protesters with new law
Carletta Tilousi: Havasupai Tribe threatened by uranium development
Opinion: Don't be fooled by Jimmie Durham's claims of Cherokee heritage
Opinion: Economic development for Indian Country in upcoming farm bill
Government worker suspended after calling Native principal a 'rabid s----'
Kiowa citizen Tristan Ahtone to report on tribes for High Country News
New York Times features Dina Gilio-Whitaker in editorial on health care
Tribes break ground on monument to their history in Virginia's capitol
Warm Springs Tribes battle large wildfire that broke out behind casino
Spokane Tribe casino doesn't bother Air Force despite claims in lawsuit
Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.