Montana Free PressNov.ember 12 social media press release by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, NTEC’s purchase of the mines put the tribal nation’s financial portfolio “in a state of uncertainty.” Nez and Lizer exercised termination provisions of the Nation’s general indemnity agreements with NTEC, “rejecting Navajo Transitional Energy Company’s proposal to use the indemnity agreements for bonds financially-backed by the Nation for NTEC’s recent acquisition of three coal mines located in Wyoming and Montana.” “We will not support initiatives that attempt to circumvent or undermine the laws and policies of our Nation,” the release said. The action raises questions about whether NTEC will be able to continue to operate Montana’s Spring Creek mine, the largest in the state and eighth-largest in the United States by production, and Wyoming’s Antelope and Cordero Rojo mines, the third- and eleventh-largest in the U.S. In order to operate the mines, NTEC must be able to provide reclamation bonds. brief cessation of operations at Spring Creek after a permitting dispute with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ refused to permit NTEC unless the company agreed to waive its tribal sovereign immunity, which allows tribes and tribal-owned companies to operate without being subject to state laws. NTEC initially agreed to a partial waiver of tribal immunity, but balked at waiving immunity to citizen lawsuits. After a two-day shutdown, a 75-day “interim” limited waiver of tribal sovereign immunity was reached between DEQ and NTEC, allowing Spring Creek’s 283 mine employees to return to work while the terms of a final permit are negotiated. In Wyoming, NTEC has been operating its mines under Cloud Peak’s permits, pending a formal permit transfer process. For now, the Nation’s withdrawal of bond backing will not affect operations at the Spring Creek Mine, said Rebecca Harbage, public policy director at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The mine’s current bond is held by Spring Creek Coal, LLC, an affiliate of Cloud Peak, and NTEC is serving as a contract operator of the mine. As long as the company continues to make annual payments of 1 percent of the extant $108.9 million reclamation bond, NTEC can continue operating the mine. “The state is protected,” Harbage said. “The existing bond is in place. There is no reason to think this decision from the Navajo Nation impacts us.” There is no requirement that NTEC complete a permit transfer by any specific deadline, Harbage said, though the interim agreement reached last month states that NTEC would apply for a permit transfer within 30 days of the October 23 closing of the purchase. That doesn’t mean the permit transfer has to be completed during that time period, Harbage said.
Posted by Navajo Transitional Energy Company on Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Johnathan Hettinger is a journalist based in Livingston. Originally from Central Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois, he has worked at the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, the Livingston Enterprise and the (Champaign-Urbana) News-Gazette. Contact Johnathan at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jhett93.
Note: This story originally appeared on Montana Free Press. It is published under a Creative Commons license.
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