Farmington — Members of the environmental group Dine CARE issued a press release on Tuesday stating that they are not suing the Navajo Nation or BHP Billiton.
According to the press release, they were accused of recently suing both entities by Shiprock Chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie in a story that ran Oct. 15 in The Daily Times.
Dine CARE member Lori Goodman said there was a lawsuit filed by the group and other environmental organizations in 2007 and in 2012 but against the Office of Surface Mining and the Department of the Interior for not following federal regulations and for not allowing Navajos to participate in the decision making process.
"This lawsuit was not against BHP Billiton and not against the Navajo Nation," Goodman said.
Holly Barton, also a Dine CARE member, called the allegations "slander" and said it "has the potential to damage the trust between Dine CARE and the Dine people."
Dine CARE, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Amigos Bravos are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed May 2012 in U.S. District Court in Colorado.
The lawsuit is against the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
It also names BHP Navajo Coal Company and the Navajo Nation as intervenor-defendants.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Yazzie said the only reason he mentioned the lawsuit during the Oct. 14 chapter meeting was to present balanced information to chapter members.
"I need the people to know all the facts," he said. "That's all I was doing."
Pat Risner, asset president of BHP Billiton's New Mexico Coal division, said even though Dine CARE stated it is not suing the coal company, they are listed as a defendant.
If the court rules for the plaintiffs, it would shut down mining operations, Risner said.