[Marxism] The Navajo Nation and El Paso Natural Gas

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Mon Oct 24 12:08:46 MDT 2005


Long gone are the days when corporations and the U.S. Department of Interior
could do congenial "business" in Indian Country without the deep involvement
and consent of the Indian Nations:  unilaterally, flagrantly, and with the
pitifully small royalty and other monetary arrangements which delighted the
alien shareholders. It's a different story now -- and so gone, too, are the
eternally long [sometimes 99 year] leases from those old days .  I was very
much a high school kid when the El Paso Natural Gas pipeline was being
developed and sketched -- and I was still extremely young more than fifty
years ago when it was being constructed in my home region.  In a word,
Bushy-atmosphere or not, if El Paso doesn't please the Navajo Nation [which
I suspect it pretty much will and soon], El Paso can kiss its whatever
goodbye.  Here is a map of the four-state setting:

And here are two contemporary news stories, each with today's 10/24/05
date --  Arizona Republic and Indian Country Today:

Navajo seeks to resolve pipeline conflict

Ken Alltucker
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 24, 2005 12:00 AM

In many ways, the fate of millions of natural-gas customers in the Southwest
rests squarely on the actions of Louis Denetsosie.

Denetsosie, attorney general of the Navajo Nation, is the tribal
government's chief legal authority advising the tribe in an ongoing dispute
with El Paso Natural Gas about the company's pivotal pipeline crossing a
wide stretch of reservation land in  northeastern Arizona and New Mexico.

The dispute boils down to this: The Navajos want more money for use of the
land than Houston-based El Paso is willing to pay.

Navajo and El Paso negotiators have been unable to reach a deal to extend a
20-year right-of-way lease that allows the pipeline operator to ship 3.3
billion cubic feet daily to customers in Arizona, New Mexico and California.
The previous lease expired Oct. 17, and El Paso continues to use the
pipeline without a deal extension.

"They are in trespass right now, so they could be subject to action," said
Denetsosie, who was appointed to his position three years ago by Navajo
President Joe Shirley Jr. "The deadline has passed, but the natural gas
continues to flow."

El Paso claims the Navajos have asked $440 million for use of 900 miles of
pipeline during the next two decades. The company offered more than $200
million in cash and other consideration.

Company officials say talks are at an impasse, and management has asked the
U.S. Department of Interior to step in and broker a deal.

El Paso officials believe that the Department of Interior has an obligation
to extend the right of way under the tribe's 1868 treaty with the United
States and to avoid a conflict with the Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission, which issued a license for use of the pipeline.

"We also want it to be resolved as soon as possible," said Bruce Connery,
spokesman for El Paso. "We have offered something that is more than generous
by any measure."

Denetsosie works closely with the tribal government's resources committee to
plot the Navajos' next step. He said it's a tricky line to navigate.

On one hand, the Navajos want fair compensation from a private corporation
for use of a key stretch of land. Yet thousands of Navajo tribal members
depend on the natural gas shipped through El Paso's pipeline to heat their
homes, too.

The tribe "wants to make sure there is no interruption in service,"
Denetsosie said.

The tribe has the option of asking the federal government to declare that El
Paso improperly is using the pipeline without a lease, but Denetsosie said
that's an unlikely course of action.

"The regulations call for fair value," Denetsosie said. "What we would like
is for a rate to be established and have them pay it to the tribe."

      Email this article Click to send

      El Paso and Navajo pipeline lease expires
      © Indian Country Today October 21, 2005. All Rights Reserved
      Posted: October 21, 2005
      by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today

      Treaty and sovereignty at stake as gas company sends signals to
Interior and Congress

      HOUSTON - An agreement between the Navajo Nation and El Paso Natural
Gas Corp. for a right-of-way agreement for 900 miles of pipeline across
tribal land expired on Oct. 17, as a stalemate continued that held
implications for the future sovereignty of Indian nations.

      With lease negotiations underway with the Navajo Nation, EPNG is
asking the Department of Interior for permission for the right-of-way.

      EPNG told Interior that the Navajo Nation has displayed an ''unlawful
exercise of regulatory authority over non-Indians and is well beyond the
scope of its tribal jurisdiction as defined by federal law.''

      In its statement to the solicitor of the Interior, EPNG claims it has
the right to cross the Navajo Nation, based on the Navajo Treaty of 1868,
which includes permission for construction of works of utility of necessity
with payment for damages.

      Further, EPNG said the BIA regulation requiring tribal consent for
rights of way crossing Indian lands cannot be lawfully applied to tribes -
including the Navajo Nation - that have chosen not to reorganize under the
Indian Reorganization Act.

      EPNG told Interior in its written statement, ''Having declined to
reorganize itself under the IRA, the Nation is barred from invoking the
consent provisions that are available solely to IRA tribes.''

      EPNG's decision to go directly to Interior in an attempt to bypass
lease approval by the Navajo Nation brought a swift reaction from Navajo
Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie.

      Denetsosie said EPNG is using ''anti-Indian scare tactics,''
manipulating the facts and attempting to profiteer from recent hurricanes
Katrina and Rita at the expense of customers.

      Further, Denetsosie said at issue are treaty rights, tribal
self-determination and cooperative relations between states and tribes.

      Denetsosie called EPNG's statements to the media and attempted bypass
to Interior ''predatory behavior.''

      ''El Paso simply wants to return the Navajo Nation to the earlier
times when rights-of-way over Native American lands were granted by the
United States for nominal consideration, thus gaining a competitive
advantage over other gas pipeline companies.''

      James J. Cleary, president of EPNG, refuted the comments.

      ''We reject as totally inaccurate any references that we wish to
'return the Navajo Nation to earlier times,''' Cleary told Indian Country

      ''We have had 54 years of amicable relations and fair dealing with the
Navajo and employ many Navajo in our operations in New Mexico and Arizona.''

      Meanwhile, Interior has not announced a decision in the case. EPNG,
owner of the nation's largest gas pipeline system, said Oct. 17 in a press
announcement that it does not expect any interruption in service to its
customers as a result of the expiration of the lease.

      However, in its statement to Interior, EPNG said the lease impasse
threatens the energy supply to millions in Arizona, New Mexico, California
and Nevada.

      EPNG also said there are implications for Congress.

      In its announcement of the lease expiration, EPNG cited Section 1813
of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, in which Congress commissioned a
comprehensive study of energy infrastructure rights-of-way on tribal lands
to be conducted jointly by the Energy and Interior departments.

      EPNG said, ''The study signals Congress' growing concern over recent
tribal right-of-way trends and indicates that EPNG is not the only energy
transporter confronting this phenomenon.''

      At issue is the lease, which EPNG said was valued at $29 million,
which was entered into in 1985 and renewed in 1995.

      Cleary said the company's final offer is more than generous. He said
perpetually granted rights-of-way for land in the area, both on and off the
reservation, are priced at between $100 and $500 per acre.

      Cleary said the Navajo Nation's negotiators are demanding the
equivalent of $50,000 per acre for a 20-year lease. He said EPNG's final
offer totals some $200 million in cash and non-cash consideration and was
rejected by the Navajo Nation, which is demanding $440 million.

      The company's offer is for $138 million in cash and non-cash
considerations totaling another $60 million. This includes converting
gas-fired compression at the company's Window Rock, Ariz. station to
electric-driven compression and purchasing the necessary electric power from
the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, the local tribal utility.

      ''We have also proposed a helium project that would be sited on Navajo
land and which would develop potentially significant reserves. We would move
a plant capable of producing 150 [thousand cubic feet] per day of helium to
the nation and give the Navajo a controlling interest in the project, which
could also involve two additional plants,'' Cleary said.

      The offer, he said, seeks to improve living conditions and provide
revenue and energy resources.

      Cleary also refuted the Navajo Nation's comments that the gas company
was attempting to usurp the nation's sovereignty by going directly to
Interior for approval of the new lease.

      ''El Paso has great respect for the Navajo Nation and at all times -
in almost 18 months of negotiating - we have sought collaboration and
cooperation in our discussions.

      ''We greatly value a history of cooperation with and respect for the
Navajo people that spans more than 50 years; however, we cannot ask the
consumers in the states we serve to absorb the current demand of more than
$50,000 per acre for a 20-year renewal of our agreement.''

      Denetsosie said that under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
settlement in March 2003, EPNG agreed to pay more than $1.7 billion to
California customers to settle lawsuits claiming EPNG manipulated the
natural gas markets.

      Cleary, however, said EPNG was later exonerated by the U.S. Court of
Appeals in Washington, D.C. in the case.

Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

I am honored -- humbled -- by the 2005 Elder Recognition Award of Wordcraft
Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. This particular, rarely issued
honor is one of several awards voted by the Caucus [board] of this
organization of writers, storytellers, film makers, and journalists.
http://www.hunterbear.org/elder_recognition_award_for_2005.htm   Regularly

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and
mysterious and remembering way.  [Hunter Bear]

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