Just weeks before President Obama announced details of his climate change action plan, federal officials approved a deal to allow expanded mining of coal on Navajo lands and its continued burning at the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, NM. The deal extends the lease on the plant by 25 years, and allows for an expansion of the Navajo Mine that supplies it. It came less than a month after operators of the Four Corners plant (chiefly Arizona Public Service) agreed to settle a lawsuit by federal officials and environmental groups that claimed plant emissions violated the Clean Air Act. Under the settlement, operators agreed to spend up to $160 million on equipment to reduce harmful emissions, and to set aside millions more for health and environmental programs. The regional haze produced by the plant and others ringing the Navajo reservation has long drawn protest. Under pressure from the EPA, the plant in 2013 shut down the oldest and dirtiest three of the five generating units to help the facility meet emission standards. But many locals are not appeased. "Our Mother Earth is being ruined," said Mary Lane, president of the Forgotten People, a grassroots Navajo organization. "We don't want the power plant to go on. It's ruining all the environment, the air, the water." (Navajo-Hopi Observer, July 21)
Members of the San Carlos Apache tribe returned to Arizona this week after traveling to Washington DC to protest the proposed Resolution Copper Mine near Superior, Ariz. A land swap to facilitate the project got federal approval last December, when it was added to the National Defense Authorization Act, although a bill sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) aims to repeal that section of the measure. The protestors, from the group Apache Stronghold, oppose the swap, which would open Oak Flat, a part of Tonto National Forest that they hold sacred, to mining. Resolution Copper expects the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review to start by year's end. Caravan member Standing Fox said at the Capitol, "I'll die for my land." If lobbying and legislation don't work, then in a "worst-case scenario, we will be out there blockading. We'll be stopping the whole process physically."
The US Department of Justice and county officials in Phoenix on July 15 agreed to settle parts of a discrimination lawsuit filed against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in 2012. The DoJ filed charges against the Sheriff's Office for discriminatory practices in traffic stops, work and home raids, and in county jails, as well as claims of retaliation. The settlementreached with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors did not address the allegation that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's agency racially profiled Latinos when making traffic stops in their effort to prevent illegal immigration. Supervisor Steve Gallardo said the settlement is in the best interest of saving tax-payer's money by avoiding an expensive trial. The remaining issue will proceed to a scheduled Aug. 10 trial in the US District Court for the District of Arizona.
US District Judge Murray Snow ruled May 24 that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office illegally engaged in racial profiling, and prohibited deputies from using race as a factor in law-enforcement decisions, detaining people solely for suspected immigration violations, or contacting federal immigration authorities to arrest suspected undocumented immigrants who are not accused of committing state crimes. Critics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's controversial immigration enforcement efforts said they felt vindicated by the ruling. "In my mind, people have been very abused in our communities," said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. "We knew racial profiling was taking place and it was very hard to prove it."
Arizona's Gov. Jan Brewer issued an executive order on Aug. 15 that instructs state agencies not to provide driver's licenses and other public benefits to undocumented immigrants who have gained the right to work under a new federal program known as Deferred Action. Brewer's executive order rebuffs the Deferred Action program, a recent Obama administration policy that allows undocumented immigrants who served in the armed forces or have graduated high school, came to the US at a young age and are under 30 not to be deported. In her executive order, Brewer argued that the Deferred Action program does not grant legal status to undocumented immigrants and that she is enforcing current state law that denies public benefits to these immigrants: