Erin Brockovich accuses feds of lying about mine waste spill

Wild horse & burro advocates continually see that the BLM allows mines to expand, but round up wild horses and burros to the point of extinction while claiming that the wild horses and burros cause “degradation to the range.”  Advocates must continue to publicly point out the BLM’s hypocricy and favoritism of “uses” that make more money on public lands (which is violation of FLPMA – the Federal Land Policy and Management Act).  BLM mismanagement/catering to special interests continues to put our environment in great peril, including the environmental risks from mining and abandoned mines.  It’s important to bring up public lands issues in relation to our fight to save the last of our wild horses and burros.   We must also fight to keep clean water for future generations.  –  Debbie

Source:  yahoo news/Associated Press

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich visits San Juan River on Navajo Nation downstream from the Gold King Mine spill on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, near Shiprock, N.M. Brockovich accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from the Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states. (Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic via AP) MARICOPA COUNTY OUT; MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich visits San Juan River on Navajo Nation downstream from the Gold King Mine spill on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, near Shiprock, N.M. Brockovich accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from the Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states. (Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic via AP)

SHIPROCK, N.M. (AP) — Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous from the Oscar-winning movie bearing her name, on Tuesday accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from a Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states.

Her allegation came during a visit to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, where she saw the damage and met with Navajo Nation leaders and farmers affected by last month’s spill, which was triggered by an EPA crew during excavation work.

Brockovich said she was shocked by the agency’s actions leading up to the release of waste tainted with heavy metals and its response afterward.

“They did not tell the truth about the amount. There were millions and millions of gallons,” she said while speaking to a crowd of high school students in Shiprock, New Mexico.

The EPA did not immediately respond to email and telephone requests for comment Tuesday. The agency initially pegged the spill at 1 million gallons but later said it was likely three times that amount given the readings of stream gauges that recorded a spike in river flows.

The revision only added to the suspicion of local officials that were criticizing the agency for failing to notify them sooner that the contaminated plume was headed downstream.

Uncertainty lingers over the long-term dangers to public health and the environment from the spill, which contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. EPA says the threat has eased, allowing treatment plants to start drawing water from the rivers again and ending warnings against recreational activities. But Navajo leadership is skeptical.

Water flows down Cement Creek just below the site of the blowout at the Gold King mine which triggered a major spill of toxic wastewater, outside Silverton, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. It will take years, if not decades, and many millions of dollars to clean up and manage the toxic wastewater from a this Colorado mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals, affecting the livelihoods of residents in three states, according to some experts. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Water flows down Cement Creek just below the site of the blowout at the Gold King mine which triggered a major spill of toxic wastewater, outside Silverton, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. It will take years, if not decades, and many millions of dollars to clean up and manage the toxic wastewater from a this Colorado mine that unleashed a 100-mile-long torrent of heavy metals, affecting the livelihoods of residents in three states, according to some experts. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

A series of congressional hearings investigating the spill will begin Wednesday. Republican committee leaders in the House and Senate say that EPA officials have withheld documents that could explain what went wrong.

Navajo President Russell Begaye also questions the number of gallons released. He recounted for Brockovich what he saw during an unannounced visit to the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, days after the spill. He said he saw a wide gully that was several feet deep and water continuing to pour out of the mine.

Some Navajo irrigation systems remain shuttered until the tribe receives results from its own water and sediment testing. As a result, Begaye has said thousands of acres of crops have gone dry.

Begaye and Brockovich met with farmers to discuss the effects of the spill on irrigation as well as the legacy of contamination left behind by decades of uranium mining.

During the stop in Shiprock, they told the students that it will be up to the next generation to hold government and private industry accountable.

“It’s a terrible disaster, and unfortunately it’s a situation we see playing itself out not only on the Navajo Nation, but across the United States of America,” Brockovich said, referring to pollution and lax enforcement.

“You are the future and you will be the answers,” she told the students.

Brockovich was portrayed in the 2000 movie, “Erin Brockovich,” which earned actress Julia Roberts an acting Oscar. The environmental advocate helped investigate a major case of groundwater contamination in California in the early 1990s that inspired the film.

As for the Gold King spill, Brockovich said the federal government needs to clean up the mess.

Navajo officials say the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the EPA have declined the tribe’s requests for continued help, including the appointment of a federal recovery coordinator.

A FEMA spokeswoman said the EPA was the lead agency and would be responsible for coordinating with the tribe and other local governments.

Navajo Nation eyes agreement reining in slaughter of wild horses

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SOURCE:  news.yahoo.com

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – The first effort of its kind to prevent wild horses roaming the Navajo Nation in the U.S. Southwest from being sent to slaughter in Mexico has gained the preliminary approval of tribal leaders, former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said on Thursday.

Under a draft agreement that still must be reviewed by the tribe, a foundation established by Richardson and actor Robert Redford would provide funds and expertise to the Navajo Nation to halt reservation roundups that have seen thousands of wild horses shipped to slaughterhouses in Mexico.

  The impact of intensive grazing by wild horses in a high-desert reservation that spans more than 27,000 square miles (70,000 square km) of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah has been compounded by drought and led to competition with livestock for sparse vegetation, said Rick Abasta, spokesman for Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

  The roundups by the nation’s agriculture department and the fate of the captured animals has ignited controversy among the tribe’s more than 300,000 enrolled members, including wild horse advocates, Abasta said.

The issue has divided a tribal nation whose economy relies in part on free-range cattle and sheep but which also reveres horses.

“The Navajo elders have a saying which translates into English as ‘Our horses are sacred,'” said Abasta.

Richardson, whose second term as New Mexico governor ended in 2011, said he and Redford formed the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife with the aim of aiding wild horses.

“Our main objective is to stop the roundups and stop the horse slaughter,” said Richardson, who said Redford is a fellow horse enthusiast who owns a home in New Mexico.

Richardson said the agreement would first seek to identify the number of wild horses on the reservation, where estimates have ranged from several thousand to more than 70,000.

If ultimately approved, the deal, which proposes such methods as birth control to keep wild herds in check, would be the first of its kind on Indian lands and perhaps in the nation, he said.

“The Navajos are the biggest tribe in the country. If we strike an agreement here, it will set an example for other tribes that still slaughter,” Richardson said.

Abasta said the nation’s newly elected president is seeking feedback from tribal members.

“President Begaye wants a little more time to gather the input of grassroots organizations, ranchers and others to determine how best to go forward on implementing the agreement,” he said.

Navajo officials renegotiating wild horse agreement

th  Bill Richardson, former Gov. of New Mexico

SOURCE: santafenewmexican.com

Newly installed Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is renegotiating a wild horse protection agreement with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and actor/activist Robert Redford.

Richardson and Redford formed the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife in 2013 as the state considered a permit for a horse slaughter facility in Roswell. The group later worked with the former Navajo Nation president to stop the roundup of feral horses from the reservation for shipment to slaughter facilities in Mexico.

Navajo officials have said the horses are overgrazing and harming the land. The prior administration signed an agreement with Redford and Richardson to halt roundups and find other ways to reduce the horse population, such as adoptions.

Alarie Ray-Garcia of the foundation said Richardson met last week with Begaye and other Navajo officials.

Rick Abasta, a public information officer for the Navajo Nation, said Begaye wants to consult with chapter house leaders and other elders before moving forward with changes to the agreement.

Ray-Garcia said the foundation was ready to hire a company to conduct an aerial survey of the horse population. Estimates have ranged from a few thousand to 75,000 animals.