Council meets today in special session on NGS, energy company

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, April 29, 2013

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I f you plan to attend the Navajo Nation Council's special session today, plan to be there very early.

Coal miners from across the Navajo Reservation are being bussed to the special session by Navajo Generating Station, Peabody Coal, and BHP Billiton to support two separate pieces of legislation.

The pieces of legislation to be considered by the Council are the 25-year lease extension for NGS and the creation of a Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

Navajo Transitional Energy Company is a proposed merger of BHP Navajo Coal Co., which is owned by BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal, and the tribe for the benefit of negotiating BHP Billiton's sale of its coal mine near Shiprock, N.M., to the tribe for about $85 million.

Grassroots organizations from across the reservation that oppose the legislation are also expected to attend the session.

Coal miners say that the lease extension would save their jobs and livelihood of their families, which involves educational support for their children.

Speaker Johnny Naize, who is sponsoring both coal-mining related bills, said the lease renewal and energy company would assure a steady flow of revenue into the tribal treasury, which would be used for direct services to the people.

But Naize has never provided a breakdown of the annual tribal budget that shows how much of the $543.6 million budget actually goes to direct services.

Several years ago, the tribe's auditors reported that about 15 percent of the budget goes to direct services.

Grassroots organizations also oppose the lease renewal and energy company because of other un-answered questions regarding the health impacts of coal mining, possible waivers of water rights, future federal environmental laws regarding coal ash, and low coal royalties, lease fees and taxes.

The special session is today at 10 a.m. at the Council chamber in Window Rock.


Diné woman crowned Miss Indian World

Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE - A Diné woman was crowned Miss Indian World Saturday at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque.

Kansas Begay, who is 24-years-old and originally from Waterflow, N.M., competed against 16 contestants to win the crown.

Begay said after earning titles like Miss Indian Teen World and Miss Indian University of New Mexico, she decided to take a shot at the Miss Indian World title.

"The whole title for Miss Indian World is really having to bring unity for all Native nations together," she said.

As Miss Indian World she will promote cultural awareness and to encourage the youth to pursue a higher education.

Begay graduated in 2011 from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies, and also a Native American recording artist, having recorded four albums, two of which were nominated for Native American Music Awards.

She held her first title as Miss Tse'Daa'Kaan of Hogback Chapter House when she was 10. She is Red Bottom Clan born for the Many Hogans Clan.

The Miss Indian World Pageant is considered to be the largest and most significant cultural pageant for Native women between the ages of 18 and 25.

Each contestant competed in four different areas: public speaking, personal interview, traditional presentation, dance and essays and were judged in each category based on cultural knowledge.

The winner will spend one year traveling extensively throughout the U.S., Canada and internationally.





Military officer, mother woman gets five years for death of two

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK - A Tohlakai, N.M. woman, convicted in January of two counts of vehicular homicide, received a five-year sentence in Gallup District Court April 26.

Arlene Garnenez, 36, was given the maximum six-year sentence for each death but District Court Judge Louis DiPauli Jr. agreed to suspend seven years of that sentence.

He also agreed to allow her to remain out of custody pending the results of appeals her defense attorney plans to file.

Garnenez was convicted of the July 2011 deaths of Christina Joe, 32, of Standing Rock, N.M., and Shawn Bennett, 32, of Prewitt, N.M.

The two died just after dawn July 21, 2011 near Churchrock, N.M. after a night of partying with Garnenez and two other people.

The family of the two victims spoke for more than an hour at Friday's sentencing, urging DiPauli to send a message to other drivers in this area that if they drink and drive and sometime is killed, they will get the maximum sentence allowed under law.

But DiPauli said he could not do that, given Garnenez's exemplary life before the accident as a military officer and a mother.

It was not fair, he said, to give her the maximum for "one stupid mistake."

In the trial last January, Garnenez took the stand and told the jury that while she drove the others throughout the night to various communities in the county, she barely had anything to drink.

The two people who were with her that night also testified during the trial that they did not see Garnenez drink very much.

But four hours after the accident, Garnenez had her blood drawn at the hospital and she posted a .06 blood alcohol level.

Experts brought in by the prosecution said this indicated that she had a blood alcohol level as high as .12 at the time of the accident and while the degree of reduction in blood alcohol level may vary from person to person, there was no doubt that her blood alcohol level at the time of the accident was over .08, the legal limit allowed under law.

The family members of the victim also stated that they felt that Garnenez had shown no remorse for the accident and has spent the time blaming others for what occurred that night.

But Garnenez, when she had an opportunity to speak during the sentencing, broke down as she turned to the family members and said she was very sorry for their suffering and wished that this had never happened.