Navajo Nation Council to consider helium development bill at winter session

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation Council is using the time before its winter session starts on Jan. 24 to raise awareness about human trafficking. During the session, a bill authorizing helium extraction agreements may be a main topic.

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month and Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty is organizing the walk in Window Rock, Arizona to bring attention to the problem and to remember missing and murdered Diné relatives.

The winter session is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and will be held in hybrid format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaker Seth Damon is sponsoring a bill to authorize operating agreements for helium development by the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company.

Beautiful Mountain is seen from Navajo Mine on Oct. 13, 2021. A bill on the Navajo Nation Council's 2022 winter session agenda seeks permission to place a helium development project near the mountain in Sanostee Chapter.

The company, a tribal enterprise, is seeking authorization to examine helium extraction activities within the chapters of Sanostee, Red Valley and Teec Nos Pos.

When the bill went before the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee in January, Damon told delegates that the project would financially help the tribe.

Opponents say while company officials have met with Sanostee Chapter leadership, individuals who hold grazing and land permits have not been consulted or have consented to the development.

Some delegates during the committee commented about the lack of consideration for community members.

A forum for community members to discuss the proposal with Damon and company officials was scheduled for Jan. 23 at the Sanostee Chapter house.

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Prior to the forum, a group called Dooda (No) Helium Extraction Organization is scheduled to host a meeting outside the chapter house at 11 a.m.

Another environment-related bill proposes waiving part of the tribe's sovereign immunity so it can participate in California's cap-and-trade program, a key element to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

Cap-and-trade systems are one of several market-based ways to reduce greenhouse gas and other emissions, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

The Navajo Nation Council will start the 2022 winter session on Jan 24. The session will be in a hybrid format because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tribe would join in the program through the Navajo Forestry Department, whose director wrote in a letter to tribal leaders that participation would generate revenue for the tribe by selling emission credits.

If tribal leaders authorize participation in the program, then the tribe would be under the legal jurisdiction of California state courts for matters related to the program.

Another piece of legislation proposes changing the date when voter registration closes for tribal elections.

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Such action would alleviate problems for the Navajo Election Administration because it would create a gap between when voter registration closes and absentee voting begins, the bill states.

There are 11 bills on the proposed agenda, which is on the council's website.

Additional bills can be added by delegates when the adoption of the agenda occurs, according to the Office of Legislative Services.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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