Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Water and Energy in the Navajo Nation

New on Resources Radio

Understanding Water and Energy in the Navajo Nation, with Andrew Curley

In this week’s episode, host Daniel Raimi talks with Andrew Curley, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and a member of the Navajo Nation. Curley works on how Native nations and the US government manage water and energy resources in a complex social, political, and geographic landscape. They discuss water and energy issues in the Navajo Nation where Andrew lives, and how history, politics, economics, and social factors affect the decisions that relate to the governance of these essential resources.
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  • Native nations lack representation in Congress: “States have representatives [in Congress]. Tribes don’t. When it comes to water rights, you have to negotiate with states who already have a much greater advantage in the forum where the water rights are eventually solidified into law.” (8:58)
  • Infrastructure plays a role in negotiations over water rights: “On paper, you can have all these rights to water or claim you have all these rights, but you can’t actualize that water until you have the money necessary to build infrastructure: the pipelines, canals, pumps—whatever is needed to bring the water to the household, the business, industrial site, or whatever you envision the water being used for. You need to have the capital to spend to make that water work for you. Those are the nuts and bolts of the water settlement.” (19:04)
  • The closure of the Navajo Generating Station needs context: “I can’t see the closure of the plant and its demolishment as anything to celebrate. It’s an indication of a loss of the environment, the landscape for 40-plus years of the mining, and the water that was used … Then you have the loss of the jobs, the income, and the revenues for the Tribal government. It’s nothing but loss for us with the closure of that power plant and the mine. To look at it and celebrate it is to look at it ahistorically. The closure forces us to answer difficult questions as a Tribe, but it definitely isn’t something to be celebrating.” (30:57)

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