Controversial helium extraction bill returns to Navajo Nation Council
FARMINGTON — Members of the Navajo Nation Council will resume debate at the spring session on a controversial bill that proposes extracting helium from locations in the Sanostee and Teec Nos Pos chapters.
The Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company, a tribal enterprise, wants to obtain operating agreements with the Navajo Nation to develop several production sites in the two communities, according to the bill sponsored by Speaker Seth Damon.
The legislation was tabled by delegates at the winter session in January in order to give time for the company to provide documents, including profit-sharing agreements approved by the company's board of directors and the impacted chapters, grazing district committees and the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.
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While the bill seeks to provide revenue for the tribe, there are many who have expressed concern about methods used to extract helium and residents being left out of the discussion.
Dooda (No) Helium Extraction Organization, an ad hoc grassroots group that opposes withdrawing materials from Mother Earth, will protest the proposal during a march in Window Rock, Arizona, on the morning of April 18 from the Bashas' Diné Market parking lot to the council chamber.
There are several bills on the proposed agenda for the session, which starts at 10 a.m. on April 18.
Another bill slated to return to the council proposes to amend the tribe's criminal code to establish penalties for vicious dog and other animal attacks.
Delegate Carl Slater is sponsoring a bill to allocate approximately $29.2 million from the Síhasin Fund to build a 60-bed nursing home for veterans in Chinle, Arizona.
The money would also help with costs over the first year of operation.
The facility would be operated by Navajoland Nursing Home Inc., which operates the Dr. Guy Gorman Senior Care Home in Chinle.
The organization will build the facility on its property and already received $250,000 in 2015 from the Navajo Housing Authority for the project design, which was completed in 2016.
In another bill, the Navajo Election Administration is requesting $3 million from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to cover operating expenses for the rest of the year.
The administration "believes this funding request should be viewed as an emergency matter, because such expenses are necessary for NEA to adequately prepare for the upcoming 2022 Navajo Nation primary and general elections," the bill states.
Delegate Raymond Smith Jr. is sponsoring a bill to provide approximately $1.8 million in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources to address drought conditions at the tribe's ranches in Custer and Huerfano counties in Colorado.
Delegates are also being asked to recognize and honor Navajo women who served in the military by designating the first day of spring as "Navajo Women Warriors Day."
The entire agenda is available on the council's website.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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