Republicans Are Picking Economic Winners and Losers


On April 25, 2018, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill passed by the state’s Republican controlled legislature to exempt coal purchases from the state sales tax. It would lower the price of coal produced at the state’s only active coal mine, Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa. The objective of the bill is to help attract a buyer for the mine’s only customer, the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station power plant near Page. The bill was pushed by Peabody Energy’s lobbyist Tom Dorn.

All but one of the Navajo Generating Station’s owners have decided to shut it down in 2019 because they can buy cheaper and cleaner electricity on the open market. And its other owner, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, cannot afford to operate the plant by itself, so if it shuts down, so will the Peabody coal mine.

“This bill is essential to the economic success of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and surrounding communities,” Ducey said when he signed it. The two tribes would, indeed, be severely impacted by a shutdown because the power plant and mine are located on their reservations. Both tribes hold leases for the mine, and the Navajos hold one for the power plant. If the plant and mine close, it’s estimated the annual revenue of the Navajo Nation’s government would shrink by about $40 million, or about 23%, while the smaller Hopi Tribe’s revenue could decline by about $12 million, or about 67%. In addition, the power plant and mine employee about 750 workers, nearly all of them Native Americans. (Some people would still be needed to maintain and dismantle the plant and mine if they were closed.)

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Dakota Access Pipeline Victory May Only Be Temporary

Dakota Access Pipeline
Oil Pipeline Construction (Wikipedia)

Protestors trying to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota were victorious on December 4, 2016, when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers refused to permit the pipeline to carry dirty Canadian tar sands oil beneath Lake Oahe.  The U.S. State Department had previously approved the pipeline with a controversial determination that it wouldn’t substantially increase greenhouse gas emissions.

The protests against the DAPL began in April when members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe established the Sacred Stone Camp to accommodate pipeline protestors near the mouth of the Cannonball River, where it empties into the lake. The primary objective of the protestors was to protect the lake from oil spills because it’s the source of the tribe’s water supply.

They used the slogan, “Water is Life.” But their protest soon grew into much more, and became a worldwide focal point for indigenous rights and climate change activists. Thousands of people joined the camp, including representatives from hundreds of tribes, making it the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than a century. About 2,000 veterans of the U.S. military also traveled to the camp intent on forming a human shield to protect the protestors from police attacks.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

The Corp of Engineers explained they were denying a pipeline easement beneath the lake so they could conduct a full-blown environmental impact statement (EIS) in which alternative routes would be explored. An EIS is the most rigorous type of environmental study mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970. NEPA requires federal agencies to complete environmental studies of all their projects, using a public participation process that analyzes the environmental effects of various alternatives.

The Corp of Engineers has a say in whether a pipeline can be permitted beneath Lake Oahe because it has jurisdiction over public waterways and the lake is a reservoir on the Missouri River. The Corp had already completed an environmental assessment (EA) for the DAPL, a less rigorous type of NEPA study that’s typically used for projects with fewer significant issues. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation considered an EA to be inadequate for this project, and asked the Corp to complete an EIS.

The incoming Trump administration, however, will probably try to make the Corp reverse their decision to conduct an EIS, or even worse, work with the Republican-controlled Congress to revoke or eviscerate NEPA. This would have serious consequences on U.S. public lands administered under the multiple use doctrine by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Forest Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages the nation’s 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands – comprising about 193 million acres. The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages about 30 million acres, including 221 wilderness areas and 23 national monuments. NEPA is the primary mechanism by which Americans participate in the management of these lands because it requires federal land management agencies to conduct publicly reviewed environmental studies for their plans and projects. Without NEPA, the public would have little or no effective input on proposed mining operations, drilling operations, timber cuts, recreational activities, or livestock grazing schemes.

The scope of the potential danger is best illustrated by taking a closer look at the situation in regards to livestock grazing on public lands. The BLM administers more than 21,000 public lands grazing allotments, while the Forest Service has almost 6,000 grazing permittees. Public lands grazing is, by far, the most ubiquitous use of U.S. public lands, occurring on more than 200 million acres, mostly in the West. Subsequently, it’s also the commercial activity that inflicts the most widespread ecological damage on public lands. Even with NEPA, the public typically gets to review and comment on a grazing operation just once every 10 years – the term of a federal grazing permit. Without NEPA, even that modest opportunity would be gone.

But death of NEPA as we know it would do more than threaten the ecological health of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands. As mentioned above, a NEPA study must also be conducted when a proposed project might adversely affect a public waterway, even when the project is located on private land.

These are just some of the examples of the importance of the National Environmental Policy Act. It’s often been referred to as the environmental Magna Carta because its stated purpose is to “encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation.” If the Trump administration and the Republican Congress are allowed to neutralize NEPA, the U.S. will have crossed over an ideological threshold to a dark domain where the only thing that really matters is money.


In January of 2017 newly elected President Donald Trump issued an executive order to make the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers reverse their decision under the Obama administration to complete a full-blown environmental impact statement (EIS) of alternative routes for the DAPL, and then had them issue a permit to allow the pipeline to be drilled beneath Lake Oahe.

On June 14, 2017, federal judge James Boasberg ruled that the Corp of Engineers was, indeed, required to complete an EIS for the DAPL on the Standing Rock reservation. The pipeline, however, had already been built and the judge didn’t order it to be shut down while the EIS is completed.

The Battle of Turret Peak, 1873

General. George Crook
Gen. George Crook (Wikipedia)

On November 15, 1872, U.S. Army General George Crook launched a military offensive against the hostile Yavapai and Tonto Apache Indians hiding in the rugged landscape of central Arizona. His troops went out from the area’s army forts with orders to “hunt them down until the last hostile is killed or captured.” A year earlier he had ordered all the local Indians to report to a reservation or be considered hostile and “punished accordingly.” He made sure the message was widely delivered, but there had been little response. The troops assigned to finally inflict the punishment were told, “no excuse will be accepted for abandoning a trail; if the horses play out, follow the enemy afoot as long as your men can stand.”

The first major success of the campaign occurred on December 28, when Crook’s troops discovered a Yavapai stronghold consisting of a large cave in the depths of the Salt River Canyon. They took up positions around the mouth of the cave, and when its occupants refused to surrender, they poured in a heavy fire. When it was over they found 76 bodies inside, including women and children. There were 20 survivors, all of them women and children and most of them wounded. They were taken to Fort McDowell. The chief of this band, Nanni-chaddi, was among the dead. He had bragged that no soldiers would ever find his camp.

Turett Peak, Arizona (Jeff Burgess)
View of Turett Peak from the west. (Jeff Burgess)

The second major success of the campaign occurred on the morning of March 27, 1873, at Turret Peak. This lone mountain was also a Yavapai stronghold. It had been the destination, in fact, of a wounded brave who had escaped from the Battle of Salt River Canyon.

Members of the Turret Peak band had tortured and killed three white men on March 11th. Crook’s troops had made a big effort to track down the killers without success until his Indian scouts captured a Yavapai woman they “intimidated” into showing them the way. The soldiers crept up the sides of Turret Peak during the night and at dawn they rushed the hostile camp on top, achieving complete surprise. At least two dozen Indians were killed and the surviving women and children were taken captive.

The Attack Against the Yavapais on Turret Peak Was a Turning Point
Summit of Turret Peak, looking north. (Jeff Burgess)

These two defeats at strongholds long thought impregnable broke the back of Yavapai resistance in central Arizona. In April a Yavapai chief named Cha-lipun appeared at Camp Verde and unconditionally surrendered to Crook. He explained in Spanish* that Crook had, “too many cartridges of copper.” He was accompanied by 300 of his tribe, but represented about 2,300 in the region.

* Spanish was the language most Indians used to communicate with white people in Arizona at this time. The Indians had been in contact with Spanish-speaking whites for a couple of centuries, while English-speaking Americans had only been in Arizona for a couple of decades.

Note: Most of the historical accounts of these events refer to the Indians involved as being Apaches because, at that time, all hostile Indians in central Arizona were called Apaches. Still, some Anglos knew the Yavapais were different and called them Mohave-Apaches, because their language was similar to that spoken by the Mohave tribe. The Yavapai were indeed Yuman speaking people, like their cousins the Mohave, Hualapai, Havasupai, Maricopa, Cocopah, and Yumas. The Yavapai were the easternmost tribe of Yuman speakers and the harsh climate and rugged topography of central Arizona dictated their culture. The westernmost Apache tribe, the Tonto Apaches, had also learned to survive in this harsh place and so the two groups found much In common, despite their different languages. Yavapais and Tonto Apaches cooperated, intermarried and shared the land, the general dividing line between the two being the Mazatzal Mountains. The Tontos were given their nickname by other Western Apaches, because the word “tonto” means fool in Spanish and the other Apache tribes in Arizona considered the Tontos fools for acting acting differently from other Apaches.


The Conquest of Apacheria (Paperback)

Apacheria ran from the Colorado to the Rio Grande and beyond, from the great canyons of the North for a thousand miles into Mexico. Here, where the elusive, phantomlike Apache bands roamed, life was as harsh, cruel, and pitiless as the country itself. The conquest of Apacheria is an epic of heroism, mixed with chicanery, misunderstanding, and tragedy, on both sides.

The author’s account of this important segment of Western American history includes the Walapais War, an eyewitness report on the death of the gallant lieutenant Howard B. Cushing, the famous Camp Grant Massacre, General Crook’s offensive in Apacheria and his difficulties with General Miles, and the formidable Apache leaders, including Cochise, Delshay, Big Rump, Chunz, Chan-deisi, Victorio, and Geronimo.


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