Madeline Roanhorse: Elimination of mining funding hurts tribes

"Two weeks ago, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) failed to meet its legislative mandate of cutting $1.2 trillion from federal spending over 10 years. This past August, President Obama proposed to eliminate payments to certified Indian Tribes and States Abandoned Mine Land (AML) programs as part of his proposal to achieve the spending cut. The proposal was included in the president’s economic growth and deficit reduction plan submitted to the Super Committee.

The president’s plan to eliminate AML payments was the sole tribal specific provision in the proposal and it would have directly affected the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe and the Crow Nation (Montana). Under the 2006 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) law, certified Indian Tribes such as the Navajo Nation are mandated to continue receiving payments from fees collected from current and past coal production on the Navajo Nation. However, the President’s plan ignored this important statutory provision.

From the onset, I must note that AML fees collected from coal production on the Navajo Nation is trust resource income. This income rightfully belongs to the Navajo Nation and Navajo People. In December 2006, Congress amended SMCRA to ensure that the AML funding distribution process allowed certified Indian Tribes and States to receive their unallocated AML Trust Fund balance from the U.S. Treasury."

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Madeline Roanhorse: Tribe Fighting to Retain AML Funds (Indian Country Today 1/4)

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