For months the Navajo Nation Council has debated the fate of a proposed 2019 Navajo Nation Energy Policy. The latest move on July 17 by the Council referred the legislation back to the Resources and Development Committee (RDC). That move is the latest misstep in a series of efforts to deny one fundamental voice into a policy that will affect over three hundred thousand Navajo people; bill sponsor Elmer Begay failed to bring the proposed 2019 Navajo Nation Energy Policy directly to the Navajo people for consultation and input.
The beauty of the 2013 Energy Policy is that the Navajo People were given an opportunity to have their say on the legislation. Now the proposed 2019 version of the Energy Policy, which calls to rescind the 2013 Energy Policy, fails to incorporate the thoughts and views of the Navajo people.
Rather, the Honorable Begay only sought recommendations from a small selected group of people who have a singular view for the future. For the 2013 Energy Policy authors and (leaders) began collecting the opinions of Dine which took three years to write before voted and being signed into law.
Granted since 2013, the view of energy development has changed with the push to support renewable forms of energy. The Navajo Nation would short change itself by failing to seek the thoughts and input of the Navajo Peo·ple who’d be affected by a sweeping change in energy policy.
For generations, the Navajo Nation has been blessed with natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, helium and rare earth metals. The extraction industry has served Navajo well and has been the bedrock of the Navajo Nation general budget, a source of revenue that benefits all the people.
With the addition of renewable energy, the Navajo Nation only increases its potential wealth. However, Navajo can’t move forward and singularly embrace renewables without a responsible transition plan. Especially, since the funding of critical programs and services that help our Navajo People are currently generated by the extraction of natural resources. It’s only fair to ask the Navajo People what they think about their services being potentially reduced or even eliminated.
In addition, supporters of changing the energy policy are sharing limited opinions of Navajo traditional philosophy that fits their argument. They say we need to leave the earth as it is.
Meanwhile, another traditional view exists that says our Mother will always care for her people.
Natural resources come from our Mother Earth and are given to her people to improve their quality of life. Not everyone shares the beliefs of the outside non-Navajo people who proudly chant “Keep it in the ground.” They may never understand Navajo motherhood in relation to her people.
Opinions can vary among our Navajo people, but without consulting them we will never know what they think about a policy change that directly affects them. Our Nation has more than 300,000 people with more than 170,000 people living on the Navajo Nation. Yet, the 2019 Energy Policy would be written by a dozen people a majority of whom weren’t elected by anyone. This means 110 Navajo chapter communities and their members would not have a voice in the creation of a policy that·could further limit the energy capacity of the Navajo Nation.
Nonetheless, some will agree that renewable energy should be embraced. This is not a disagreeable point; the question is how we will get from here to there without a sound energy road map.
The truth behind the proposed 2019 Energy Policy is that there is no plan. Nothing for the Navajo people to even consider. When you don’t have a plan for the people of the Navajo Nation to consider, then the policy essentially does not have any resemblance of the values of 300,000 Navajo people. The proposed 2019 Energy Policy would simply be a back room deal void of input from Diné.
Former Energy Policy Advisor to the Navajo Nation Speakers office