The Impact of Coal Restrictions on the Navajo Nation: Sen. Carlyle Begay
In announcing his recent decision to change from the Democrat to the Republican Party, Arizona Senator Carlyle Begay spoke of unemployment rates as high as 80% in his district. He also stated that future progress in Arizona has to include partnerships with rural and tribal communities. It is the Republican party that has embraced these crucial partnerships, which are the cornerstone of the future of our state.
As a rural Arizonan living in Gila County, I understand some of the concerns that we share. Rural and tribal Arizonans live in and of the land. We are sustained by it. We respect and love it. Rural Arizona offers rich natural resources that have fed, clothed, sheltered, and provided energy and water to millions of people.
The Democrat Party has waged war on our livestock, timber, and coal industries, the very industries that sustain Arizona's rural and tribal communities.
Back in July 2015, then Democrat Senator Carlyle Begay spoke at the Heartland Institute's International Conferences on Climate Change.
Please see a summary of Senator Begay's speech following the video.
Senator Begay explained to the attendees that the Arizonans he represents depend on one of Arizona's economy-producing natural resources: Coal. Water policy is also crucial to this resource. Arizona's natural resources have had a major impact not just in Arizona, but also across the country. The Navajo Nation is located in the Four Corners of the Southwest, including Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. It encompasses over 27,400 square miles, the size of West Virginia. Most of the Navajo Nation is located in Sen. Begay's District 7, the largest legislative district in the country. Of the 500 recognized tribes in the United States, the Navajo is the largest and includes over 300,000 tribal members. Of the 300,000, less than half are able to make a living. Sixty percent of the Navajo Nation's operating budget relies on coal. The economic impact from coal and the Navajo Generating Station could boost their economy by over $13 billion over the next twenty-five years. EPA Regulations have taken their toll on this vital economic resource. Even though the Navajo Generating Station produces energy for much of the Southwest, many of the communities that Sen. Begay represents doesn't have electricity or access to running water. Coal provides jobs and revenue to the Navajo people and represents their ability to act as a sovereign nation and to be self-determined.
Also, the Navajo Nation recently purchased the Navajo Mine from BHP Billiton. See Navajo Nation Is Coal Country as Mine Sale Finalized. Thus, the Navajo Nation is not just a stakeholder in the discussion of energy policy and coal, but also a shareholder in this process. Senator Begay stressed the importance of partnership and collaboration in this new dynamic. His goal is for our state and federal government to work with tribal communities in a government-to-government relationship built on the foundation of partnership, not consultation. His vision is that the future of Arizona will be very much dependent upon a partnership with our tribal communities and vice versa. Tribal communities will be a stakeholder, and they will be a shareholder. When we look at policies, he wants to ensure that they are well rounded and include the communities that are impacted by them.